A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok and Aruthaya [UPDATE: now with Pictures]

The start of the trip

sunny 36 °C

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So here it goes the first blog post of the trip. 2 days ago we arrived in a very humid Bangkok after an epically long and tiring flight on Cathay pacific via Hong Kong. We met Dan (Rob's mate from university) and Dan's mate Ollie (who had arrived earlier in the day), who we plan on doing a lot of the trip with in the D and D hotel in the backpackers' hub of Khao San Road. We had dinner and a Chang Beer (or three) and got some much needed sleep on an actual bed.

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The next day was a late start and our objective was to head to the train station and book tickets which we headed over to using the river bus service in Bangkok. When we got there we headed to a TAT tourist office to plan our route. A lot of our initial plans have been complicated by the fact that there is a Full Moon party on the 14th/15th which drives the prices up for our travel further south towards Malaysia and that it is a Thai national holiday on the 17th meaning loads of things are closed or fully booked by local tourists. Also the office confirmed foreign office advice that travelling by train across to Malaysia was very dangerous as bombs and gun attacks occur regularly. This meant our itenary has been changed and we have had to break our rule of not flying.

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Our new iteinary is that we left Bangkok today on Friday in the afternoon to go to Aruthaya and then tomorrow pate afternoon we go to "monkey town" for a few hours. Then we get a sleeper train to Chiangmai. Stay for just under a week. Then fly to Bangkok get the train+bus+ferry to Koh Tao. Stay there for a few days and go to Koh Samui. Then Ollie needs to fly back so Dan and Ollie will go to Bangkok and me and Rob to Phuket where we will fly to Kuala Lumpar. Dan will fly from Bangkok to KL on the same day. We then shall explore Malaysia. The. Rob and I will head to Singapore where we fly back from. So that's all the technicalities here's the adventure so far.

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In bangkok we also went to a Golden Buddah temple near the station. Then we went back for a few hours of fun and games in the hotels pool where we engaged many fun activities. We then went on a night out which involved 2 6 litre tower of Chang Beer, kfc, general craziness and bumping into school friends. But that is enough about that.

Today we caught the train to Aruthaya which was very long and hot but relatively spacious. When we arrived we checked into PU guesthouse and did a boat tour of the outer temples followed by dinner at the night market. Tomorrow we cycle around the inner temples and go to monkey town and get the sleeper train to Chiangmai.

Posted by Yeebles 20:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand bangkok itenary Comments (0)

We are off again!

Part 2

Hey everyone! Me and Rob are off again to SEAsia. On part2 of our trip. We shall be starting on the 6th of July in Bangkok and Finishing in Singapore on the 16th of August.

Stay tuned for more of the same as 2 years ago with possibly more matured style (probably not though).

Alex

Posted by Yeebles 10:58 Comments (0)

1 Year On.... And some advice

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View SE Asia Summer 2009 on Yeebles's travel map.

So, I have been meaning to leave some advice for ages. But, since coming back from Bangkok to home in the UK, things have been non-stop. I immediately had to get ready for going to the University of Liverpool to read Economics and then since I got there, this blog has taken a back seat (or bed) on this coach(or sleeper bus) of priorities.

Anyways, here is a list of things that I found most useful during our travels:

1. iPod Touch (or any music playing device)- I took my iPod touch mainly for the music element as we were having very long trips. However, I have to admit the other features on it were very useful. I had pre loaded some films and games meaning at certain points of a long bus through dark/same-y scenery Rob and I played a few games of monopoly. Now, I'm not saying play all the times as most of the time there is something to look at outside. Other features that were useful were the Wi-Fi feature meaning free access to email/Twitter/Blog at certain points and also I could download some more music if my current playlist got boring. Also, my iPod was useful as I had a good collection to sorta DJ at certain points earning many free drinks. Also, I had some phrasebook apps which were fairly useful.

However if you take an iPod I would suggest bringing a multi-adaptor charger and a protective case. I brought an OtterBox Defender (they have them for all iPods), which protected the iPod from monsoonal rain whilst cycling, occasional drops and falling into the mud. They do cost more than normal cases but check eBay for a good deal and it was definitely working seeing as my iPod is still going strong today.

2. Decent walking shoes/boots- This should be obvious if you are doing the Tiger Leaping Gorge trip, however, even for other bits like Sapa walking it is useful. If you are doing something similar to us the amount of walking through the town or whatever is not suitable for converse/flipflops. However, I must say I regret bringing boots as opposed to shoes as they are a bit bulky.

3. ATM card -this should be obvious but nowadays you don't need to carry all the cash for the trip on you especially if you have regular stops in towns. I brought a Nationwide card with me as they have the lowest rate. One thing that is advisable is to activate online banking as it helps in making it easier to manage transfers (I did not keep all my savings into my account and got my dad to transfer money into my Nationwide gradually). Also, if you lose your card think twice before cancelling it as you may do what I did and cancel it and then get it back with no ways of re-instating it. (this is why it is useful to have online banking to check for any activity). For this reason maybe have another bank card stored somewhere secret in a different place to your main card.

4. Cheap Nokia Mobile- I only mention Nokia as they have some really cheap durable phones that hold their battery well. I would not take a phone costing more that £25 as there is a chance you'll lose it (like I did). The phone is obviously a useful tool for emergencies but also it means you can keep in touch with the outside world as it is ridiculous where you can get good signal (especially in China). It also means you can update your Twitter/Tumblr/blog by text(if available). You may notice my Twitter kept updating in China even though Twitter is explicitly forbidden.

5. Digital Camera- very obvious one but yeah a fairly decent digital camera. You don't need to have a DSLR to get great pictures you just need to know how to change settings precisely on your digital. Some of my shots from my normal digital camera I displayed at a Photo Society Exhibition in Liverpool. A really cool camera I saw whilst travelling are these new waterproof ones which aren't even very bulky. I would also suggest bringing a spare battery and a spare memory card. Make sure you guard your camera containing your photos as you can now lose hundreds of photos in one mistake. Also, bring your cable with you and upload pictures to your blog/Flikr in case you lose them.

6. [/b]Guide book[b] - I used the Lonely Planet- South-East Asia on a shoestring which was pretty handy. However, don't rely solely on it. When you get confidence try and create a new experience. Also, be aware people make similar named places near the one mentioned in the book to try and steal customers with inferior services (e.g. there are millions of Sinh Cafe fakes in Vietnam). Also, places seem to change names regularly.

Can't think of many more apart from the obvious repellents, clothes, first aid.

Finally here's a random list of things I think you should do

Take pictures of things that catch your eye
Take pictures of a busy scene
Take pictures of scenery
Take pictures of funny signs (e.g Chinglish)
Take pictures of people
Take pictures of yourself (or get someone else to help)

Talk to fellow travellers
Talk to locals

Carry Sweets at all time incase of children coming begging/trying to forse sell.

Haggle and be prepared to say no.

Cycle in Asia
Motorcycle in Vietnam
Try the local beer

Avoid being lead into a business and being forced to buy/stay in that hotel
Don't take taxis too much, walk more
If you do take taxis, make sure you agree a price/ask for the meter (also check guidebook for recommended ones)

Tip for good service
Try and be environmentally friendly

Don't lose your temper (unless necessary)
Blog regularly and tell everyone you know!

Meet new people
See new things
Have fun!!

The 2 months I spent travelling went too quickly, and were some of the best times I've ever had. I already want to go back and am jealous of anyone who is going.

If you have any questions please contact me on Twitter @yeebles
OR message me on Travellerspoint
OR email me at: alex. jay. yee @ gmail .com (remove the spaces between the words)

Posted by Yeebles 03:42 Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Kanchanaburi

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On Saturday we got up early and where met at seven in our hotel lobby for the bus ride to Kanchanaburi. About two and a half hours later we arrived and visited a cemetery for those killed building the Death Railway between Thailand and Burma in WW2. After this we headed to the museum and the Bridge Over the River Kwai. The museum was interesting and despite the railway still being in operation you were allowed to walk all over the bridge with small platforms for when the train came. We headed off to catch the train for a short ride on the Death Railway. For the first few stops it was pretty full with other tour groups but fro the last couple of stops which was probably the most beautiful part we had pretty much the whole train to ourselves.

After having lunch at a floating restaurant we headed off to the Hellfire Pass and museum which was one of the most difficult parts of the railway to build. The museum was good and it was quite amazing to see how deep a trench the POWs and the labourers had been forced to dig in such a short period of time. It was then back to the restaurant for a very early dinner before we took a boat up the river to our raft hotel. The hotel was really good and we were able to swim in the fast flowing river. However, after jumping in it was only about twenty seconds before you reached the other end of the hotel and you had to be careful not to miss the raft and float away down stream with the strong current meaning you were pretty much horizontal when grabbing on to the raft.

The next morning we got up early to visit the Erawan waterfalls. These were really amazing with seven separate waterfalls but unfortunately we only just had time to get to the top so could not hang around for long. We went for a swim at the fourth level which I sought of fell into as I was standing on a submerged rock and was taken by surprise by a whole load of fish nibbling on my feet. We effectively got a free sample of a fish massage which will cost you a couple of hundred Baht in Bangkok Whilst swimming you had to keep moving to stop them coming back for more. The water was very refreshing being pretty cold. Then as we were heading back towards the car park I was stopped by a Thai man who wanted to have his picture taken next to the tall foreign man.

We then headed back to the floating restaurant for lunch and then went off to look at some caves. The caves were good and we just timed to it to leave the caves when the rain started and had to walk back down a very slippery staircase. Then it was back to the hotel to chill out.

This morning we had a bit of a lie in and then went off to go elephant trekking. It was an amazing thing to do but elephants are probably the world's least stable and one of the most uncomfortable forms of transport. As there was just a seat on its back whenever it went downhill it was a challenge to hold on and not slide off the front. At the end of the trek we then got to feed the elephants bananas which they grabbed off us with their trunks and happily ate the whole lot. In fact they spent most of the trek eating with one elephant charging off into the bushes for a particularly tasty tree.

After returning to the hotel we got onto a bamboo raft to float down to the restaurant. After a few minutes we were allowed to leave the raft and swim and it was really good just floating down the river for about twenty minutes. Just short of the hotel we reached a bridge and jumped off before swimming over to the restaurant. This afternoon it was a bus ride back to Bangkok where we arrived at about 18.00.

Posted by robbiet239 07:03 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Bangkok and Kanchanaburi

semi-overcast 31 °C
View SE Asia Summer 2009 on Yeebles's travel map.

Hey, the first part of the blog was written in the past on a bus on the iPod so the tense may be a bit strange.

Today we took the bus from Siem Riep across our final land border crossing into Thailand and then to Bangkok. It was an early start but not as early as Angkor Wat! We were not sure what to expect as all the travel resources we had looked at claimed that the road to the border is notoriously bad and bumpy and un-roadlike. Howeverm there was still hope as my lonely planet which was published in 2008 claimed that there was evidence of construction at the time of writting. Also, the Danish couple I met in Sapa said that some of the roads had recently been finished.

The road WAS smooth and we got to the border at Poipet in no time. We then crossed the border which took no longer than expected. We then got into a mini bus (in which I have been writing this blog). Now it truly feels like we have left the roughinng it out bit of the trip behind us as and have entered a modernised country as evidenced by the smooth fast dual carriageway highway we ride (which the drive on the left on!).

We stopped at a petrol station for a toilet stop and to buy snacks at the petrol station shop. I finally got my first dim sum of the trip from a petrol station microwave.

The rest is now written now! :)

We eventually arrived in Bangkok into long traffic jams. What really hit me was the fact that we were somewhere with massive skyscrappers, that an that I saw a Tesco Express. We then went to a hotel which was supossedly a bit luxurious for the area. It was air conditioned, rooms had their own bathrooms (shared bathrooms are more common) and had a roof top pool. The only room they had was 700฿ which we thought was a bit pricey. We then went to other suggested places. All of them were expensive or full so we went back to the first place ass it seemeed to be worth it and quite reasonable for the area.

The next day we decided to go and see the city sights. A tuk tuk driver offered to do a full tour for a mere 20฿ we took him up on this offer. First we went to see a big buddah. some temples and this temple on a mountain. We also went to the tourist office to book a 3 day 2 night tour to Kanchanaburi. The reason we got such a good price on the tuk tuk is that he gets given free petrol (2 litres) vouchers for takinhg us to certain places. He took us to 3 tailors. The first 2 weren't very nice but the 3rd had really friendly people who gave us drinks and a special price as we were young students. I bought 3 shirts and Rob bought a suit. The tuk tuk driver got a futher 3 litres as we bought something. As a result our day's tuk tuk tour was absolutely free.

We then went to the MBK in the siam centre shopping area and truly embraced modern life by having a maccy ds. We then wandered around the massive MBK as I wanted to buy Mac OSX Snow Leopard for a discounted price. I found it for a full 3.80 pounds less than at home. (Bargain!). We tehn took the sky train and river buses back to the Khao San area.

The next day we went to the Royal Palace by river bus. We spent a couple of hours there then took the river bus to China Town where we had our first proper dim sum of the trip. We then headed to the MBK as I was considering buying a DSLR whilst here and would check prices.

We then walked further than expected for a tailor fitting. The guys gave us a beer whilst we got fitted! We then headed back to the MBK where we had dinner at the amazing food court. We then took a tuk tuk back for 100฿ with no stops (we didn't want to go to another tailor or the other businesses which were a little x-rated).

The next day we got up nice and early to get the 3 hour minibsu to Kanchanaburi which is near the border with Myanmar (Burma). The first stop was a cemetery in which contains the remains of just under 7000 British, Australian Dutch and a few American POWs from WW2 that were captured by the Japanese and sent to forced labour camps to build the Bangkok-Burma railway which was to be used to transport supplies overland without threat of allied submarines and bombers. We also went to a museum about the war and the bridge that crosses the river Kwai.

After this we had an hour long bus journey to the floatng resturaunt on the river that we would stay on. We had lunch then those of us staying on the two nights tour we went to Hell Fire Pass a former railway pass where many died building the railway through the mountain as the Japanese lacked tunneling skills. There was a really informative museum and a walk to the pass itself. Unfortunatley we could only walk to the pass and back as the trail beyond the pass had been obstructed by a rock fall. We then went to a small waterfall with refreshingly cool waters which I wandered into.

We then headed back to the floating resturaunt had dinner (way to soon after lunch) and then took the boat up stram to our beautifully located floating hotel. When we got there we had just enough time before sunset to jump into the river at one end and the let the current and then push us to the hotel bar a few metres away in which we had to resist the current and get back out and go back to the start a few times. We then got clean and had a fun night in the bar.

The next day some of us went to the beautiful Erawan waterfalls, a 7 tiered waterfall with lush clear blue water, in the jungle with pools which you could swim in. The trek was hard sue to the sliperiness but it was amazing. Me and the two other people I was walking with went swimming in the pool at the top level. It was cool. The pool was slippery to get into, what made it worse were these fish which nibble the dead skin of your feet and tickle a lot, but then again people pay 150฿ in Bangkok for this. On the walk down the 2 people I was walking and I saw loads of monkeys swinging in the trees which made this trip extra special.

We then went to have lunch. Then 4 of us went to these amazing limestone caves with no one else in. They were pretty cool. We then headed back to the hotel for another night of fun among the 5 of us on the 3 day trip, the guy staying there for a few days and the new person but not before another swim which was harder as the raft which helped us get onto the hotel was gone.

Today we got up much later. We then took the boat to go elephant treking. It was amazing if a little precarious. It was funny seeing other peoples elephants wander of the track in search of some tasty leaves.

We then headed back to the hotel to bamboo raft down to the resturaunt to get taken back to Bangkok. We wanted to swim (or float) the whole way down the river but the rain made the first half dangerousbut we got to float for about 30 minutes down to a rickety bridge near the resturaunt. We then jumped of the bridge. I didn't jump of it very well and slammed my chest bone hard against the water but then proceeded to swim quickly to the side so we could get to a jetty and avoid being swept past the resturaunt.

We then headed back to Bangkok. What an amazing worthwhile trip.

[uploading pics straight after publishing]

Posted by Yeebles 20:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Bangkok

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We left Siem Reap on Wednesday morning slightly apprehensive having heard we in for a long slow bumby bus ride to the Thai border. However, the road had clearly been recently tarmaced and we made it to the border in about two and a half hours. The border crossing went smoothly but on the Thai side we had changed from our spacious coach to our cramped minibus for our four hour trip into Bangkok. We made it to the city fairly quickly but spent forever in traffic before reaching Khao San Road. Here after spending quite a while looking for hotels we found that Bangkok was significantly more expensive than either Hanoi, Saigon or Phnom Penh.

The next morning we hooked up with a tuk tuk driver to go and see some temples with the agreement being that we only paid 20 Baht for the whole day if we visited several tailors to get hime some free petrol. We headed out and visited the giant gold Budda. We visited another temple and then went to the tourist offices where we booked a three day tour of Kanchanaburi for Saturday. After this we headed up to the Golden Mountain Temple which gave views all over Bangkok. However, as you had to take off your shoes to go in and the best views were from a sun baked concrete roof you had to move quickly to avoid getting your feet singed.

After this we headed to one final tailor where I bought a suit and Alex some shirts. Then as it was too late to visit the Grand Palace we headed to the Siam Centre, a massive shopping centre, for Alex to buy Snow Leopard for his Mac (only today did we discover that there is actually an Apple shop on Khao San Road). We headed back to our hotel via the Skytrain and River boat which was good seeing the city from the river at night.

The next day we caught the river boat down to the Grand Palace and after having past about ten tuk tuk and taxi drivers telling us that it was closed for luch and we should go somewhere with them we made it to the entrance. All the buildings were really cool but it was absolutely packed with people and lots of school children trying to get us to fill in surveys. Also the two tier Thai pricing sustem for tourists made it pretty expensive. After this we headed into China town for lunch and finally had Dim Sum for the first time in Asia. Then it was back to the tailors for fitting before heading back to Khao San Road to get ready for our trip to Kanchanaburi the next day.

Posted by robbiet239 05:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Siem Reap (Angkor)

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Having caught a bus from Phnom Penh we arrived in Siem Reap at about 13.30 on Saturday. As all the buses to Siem Reap conveniently stop about 2km outside of town we caught a tuk tuk to Green Town guesthouse and arranged for the driver to take us to sunrise at Angkor Wat at 5.00 the next morning. We wandered around town a bit for the rest of the afternoon and I stayed up until 1.15 watching football, leaving me a little tired the following morning.

The next morning we met our tuk tuk driver and reached Angkor Wat at about 5.15 with it still dark and already very busy. If I had to describe the sunrise in one word I would say cloudy. As our driver had warned being the rainy season it was quite likely to be cloudy. It was still good though and there was a little sun. soon after it had got light all the tour groups left to go back for Siem Reap and went to explore the comparitively deserted temple. Quite a lot of the temple was roped off for restoration but it was still interesting and pretty massive. Then as we were walking back to our driver someone started talking to us and started showing us a few things around the wall and the edge of the temple. He was fairly good but typicaly then demanded money.

We then went with our driver to Angkor Thom, the last and biggest capitol of the Angkor era, we had breakfast and then vistited the Bayon temple which has hundreds of faces carved into it. It was good despite being completely full of Japanese tourists posing for photos. For the rest of the morning we decided to go on the Mini Circuit visiting Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei. They were all good andl had far smaller crowds than Angkor WAt and Bayon which was much better. Ta Keo was probably the best being almost deserted and the high temple giving good views.

At lunch time we arrived back in Siem REap and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with there being literally nothing to do otherthan temples.

On the second day we decided to rent bicycles (or I decided and persuaded Alex it was better than doing tuk tuk again) and do the Grand Circuit. We rented bicycles from near our hotel and they seemed OK a little uncomfortable but fairly average by Asian standards. About 1.5km from the hotel my chain came off and whilst I was trying to put it on without covering my hands in oil a local woman came up and quickly put it back on. However, about 200m later my chain came off again. I fixed only for it to fall off again. The chain was too loose fo rthe bike so I had to push the bike back to get it changed. As we were now getting what seemed to be a mountain bike with gears I gave it to Alex and took his bike. Having gone about 4km to Angkor Wat Alex revealed, having biked there very very slowly, that his bike was rubbish and that he wanted to change. This left me to do 22km on a bike with an incredibly low sandle which I had to sit off the back off to avoid hitting my knees on the handlebars. Not incredibly comfortable and I was left feeling happy that Alex had noticed the bikes faults so soon that it was too mlate to go back and change.

Anyway we visited some ruins at the northern end of Angkor Thom and the large Preah Khan temple. Deciding to have some lunch we walked towards the group of cafes across the road and got a chorus from about 6 or 7 people of ' you come my restaurant sir' , 'I see you first' ect ect which made for quite an amusing video. In the afternoon we visited several more temples which although they weren't as vast as Angkor Watwere still impressive and very quiet. We made it back into down just before dark with me just about able to walk after all day on the rubbish bike.

For the third day we decided to hook up with our tuk tuk driver again and visit the far away temple of Banteay Srei which was a bit of a trek out of Siem Reap but had some really interesting carvings. After that we headed to the Roulos group away from the main temple area. This had some of the best temples we had seen and was also very quiet. Also on arriving at one temple before the tuk tuk had even stopped we had about six girls grabbing onto us trying to sell us drinks, unfortunately this time no video.

After spending a couple of hours back in Siem Reap we hired bikes again, from a different place, and headed to the hill top temple of Phnom Bakheng just south of Angkor Tom which gave a godd aerial view of Angkor Wat and the surrounding area and was definately worth the effort. We then headed back into Siem Reap and faced yet more bike problems, when with me ahead Alex's bike lost a pedal. I am sure his blog will give all the vivid detail but he basically ended up getting a lift back from a friendly motorbike driver with his bicycle on the motorbike as well.

He made it back to the hotel for our last night in Siem Reap before heading to Bangkok.

Posted by robbiet239 05:31 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

10 day Mega Blog

overcast 32 °C
View SE Asia Summer 2009 on Yeebles's travel map.

Right, I haven't blogged in ages so here is a monster blog. Also spelling mistakes are even more likely as part of this is being typed on an iPod and the usually rubbish keyboards.

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Firstly, the cookery course. We got up nice and early to go across town to the Vietnamese culinary center. The menu for today was crispy Vietnamese spring rolls, spicy and sour soup and caramel pork with coconut steamed rice.

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Making spring rolls were fairly easy as long as they were rolled tightly. The chef was impressed by Rob's tightly wrapped spring rolls. We then moved on to the other dishes all of which were quick and easy to make but then again the ingredients had already been precut. At the end we all ate our early massive lunches at 11 and were presented with certificates and recipie books. After that we headed to the re-unification palace former hq of south Vietnam and where the flag of the north was hung when 2 tanks burst through the gate leading to the fall of Saigon. It was interesting and I finally got a picture with Uncle Ho (Chi Minh).

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The next day we headed to China town to look at pagodas and try and find dim sum. We failed at mission objective 2 so caught a taxi to the dong koi area. Over there we went to the war remnants museum which had some truly harrowing pictures of the victims of the American war. We then headed to the Internet to sort out Rob's clearing place. I learnt I had to send a form to student finance as I was going to my insurance choice. I quickly printed and filled in the document and headed to the stunning post office at 8:00 as it closed at 9:30.

The next day we were off to phnom penh, leaving the country we had spent so long in. The bus was fairly comfortable and the roads were smooth, unlike they had been in previous years. Also, more surprisingly the border crossing was very quick.

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When we got to Phnom Penh we got a tuk tuk to the lake side area. We went to number 9 guest house. It was on the lake (which seems to be being filled in) and had a nice bar/resturaunt. However, the room was not that nice compared to what we thought we could get for that price. However the real problem was that although it was in a good area for backpacker bars and resturaunts, it was ages from the centre or any sights. So we headed into town to get a curry and then looked at Royal Guesthouse which was supposedly better. We went to this family run hotel. The first room showed to us had 1 double bed which we didn't want. The second room showed to us had a double and single so we agreed to pay for the larger room with a real bathroom for only $2 more per person than number nine. We then chilled at the bar.

The next day we moved to royal guesthouse where our room had 2 double beds and was much bigger and nicer than the one we saw. We wandered around the town and booked a tour to the main sights in and around Phnom Penh.

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The next day we started by going to the killing fields where there was a massive monument filled with skulls, craters and pits where the mass graves used to be and a museum. The whole experience was moving and an eye opener to the attrocities committed by the Khymer Rouge. We also wento the Russian Market where they sold a wide variety of goods. I bought some ray bans for $7. We then went to the S21 genocide museum which was a high school converted into a prison by the khymer rouge. Political prisoners, women, children, babies and anyone who were not pure enough for the khymer rouge were held, totured and ultimately killed.

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Rob wasn't feeling very well so he was dropped of at the hotel. I went to the national museum where I got to learn more about cambodia's ancient and more peaceful past. After that I went back and after a small lunch we were taken to the royal palace where the king lives and silver pagoda. After that we went back. For dinner we went to a pizza place where I decided to try a happy pizza.

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The next day I didn't feel to well but we went to this pagoda on a hill. It wasn't that impressive but what made it for me was that there were loads of monkeys wandering around the area.

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We then went to have look at the independence monument and then went to the Vietnamese liberation monument commemorating Vietnam's help in liberating Cambodians from the Khymer Rouge. We then had a streetside haircut for $2.

The next day we caught a bus to Siem Reap. The bus was ok in comfort terms. We then got a tuk tuk to green town guesthouse. We also aranged with the tuk tuk driver to go to Angkor Wat for sunrise. We then wandered around town.

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The next day we set off at 5:00. When we got there it was still dark and crowds were building as sun rise approached a massive cloud filled the sky. We then had a look in Angkor Wat and got some amazing views of the temple.

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We then were tuk tuked to Angor Thom and the Bayon temple which was amazing as it had loads of intact fours facing buddah towers. We went to many other temples and climbed many steep steps up to the towers and roofs of the temples. Due to our early start we finished at eleven. We then lazed about for a while.

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The next day we decided to cycle on the great circuit of Angkor. We rented bikes from next door to ou hotel. The bikes were ok if a little uncomfortable. We then headed off to Angkor. Barely out of Siem Reap Rob's bike chain fell off. Luckily a local passing woman demonstrated how to put the chain back on. The chain fell off 2 more times before we turned back. Rob then got another bike which had gears. It was decided that I would benefit more from gears. However the bike was cleary weang for a child as the handlebars were so low you had to essentially be in crawling posistion to ride it and to top it the hears didn't work. After I got to Angkor Wat 20 minutes after Rob we swapped as he was a better cyclist and more likely be able to cope. We looked at many temples. Preah khan stood out as it seemed like proper jungle ruins. This is intact where they shot one of the scenes in the original tomb raider film where lara croft wanders through the jungle. After Preah Khan we were greeted by loads of women trying to get us to have lunch in their stall. We eventually picked one who had made all the prices on the menu $2 as long as we ate there.

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We then headed to other temples along the circuit. The ones that really stood out for me were ta som and bre rup which were stunning in their enormity, designs and in tactness. Also it was good as there were barely any tourists here. Overally I preffered this experience to the popular ones we saw yesterday. We then had a painful cycle ride back in which we cam across some monkeys. 

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Today we went to the Battam srey and the Rolous group with our tuk tuk driver from before. Battam srey is a bit out of the way and the only one in that area so unsurprisingly there were quite a few tourists. I was stopped at the ticket checking point as apparently the picture on my Angkor pass looked older than me. I eventually used my passport as proof it really was me. Battam srey was impressive mainly due to it's moat.

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We then headed down to the rolous group in the east. These temples are the older ones and as they were really out of the way there were barely any tourists. They were truly stunning. On going to one of the temples a truly gold moment happened when 6 drinks sellers crowded around the tuk shouting various words about buying a cold drink.

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We then went back to town and bid our driver farewell. After lunch Rob decided we should go to a temple near Anhkor Thom on a hill in which we could see the Wat from a Birdseye view. He also wanted to cycle there weirdly. We did cycle there but this time the bikes were much better my bike had working gears and semi decent height handlebars. We cycled there and climbed a hill then up some monstrously steep steps. The view was worth it and breathtaking.

The cycle back seemed to be going fine. Rain seemed to be coming so we agreed to meet at the hotel. As I aproached the Wat I noticed a poking sensation in my foot. It turned out that the plastic pedal was cracked causing the metal rod that it pivots on to stick out. I turned the pedal round and continued on my way. As I left the Angkor Wat temple area the pedal fell off. I hammered it semi on with my fist and kept going. It worked for quite a while but then 4-5km from siem reap the whole left pedal fell off and I couldn't get it back on. If I was wearing trainers as opposed to flip flops I may have been able to ride in a mal coordinated way but I ended up having to wheel it. After a while a local on the motorbike pulled alongside me bemused in why I was pushing my bike. I then showed him the pedal in my bike grease covered hands. He then tryed to signal me to put my bike on his motorbike and me get on behind it. I had truly become a local in the way I used motorbikes. The mountainbike lying perpendicularly on the saddle made the motorbike fairly wide. He drove me all the way to the hotel. Wanting to thank him for his act of kindness I looked in my wallet for some dollars to give him. I only had twenties so I gave him one which he seemed very happy with.

It then began to rain heavily. Eventually as the downpour died down we decided to take our bikes back into town to return them. I had to wheel it. However with the help of some down hill I manger to get enough momentum to pedal with one flip flopped foot although it strained my thigh muscle a bit. After returning the bikes we then had dinner of crocodile burgers.

Tomorrow we are off on the bus to Bangkok our final proper stop. In Bangkok the internet should be good enough to put pictures up so all pictureless posts like this one should have pictures soon. Sorry for the typos but this post was typed entirely on an iPod touch. Night got to get some sleep :)

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Posted by Yeebles 23:38 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Phnom Penh

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At 06.30 on Tuesday morning we left Saigon on a bus bound for the Cambodian border then Phnom Penh. We had a suprisingly smooth journey with us being given all the relevant forms to fill in on the bus and no full bag searches, unlike China. In fact the only notable incident was at the Swine Flu quarentine section the guy just grabbed my form and after establishing I was English said 'ah hello Mr Crouch'. This shows they were taking swine flu very seriously. We then travelled on an increasingly bumpy road into Phnom Penh.

We were dropped off at the bus company offices, miles from the centre of town, so had to take our first tuk tuk, which was really a motorbike with a trailer. We decided to stay at the lakeside and checked into our guesthouse where there was aview of the lake, which didn't have a great deal of water in. Our room was also a bit interesting with the bathroom falling to pieces when I decided to have a shower. Although it was OK we decided to save the regular walk or tuk tuk ride into the centre of town and we are now staying in the centre in one of our nicest rooms so far for about the same price.

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The best side of our first hotel.

We spent Wednesday mostly relaxing and wandering about the city a bit. On Thursday we did a tour of the city. We visited the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng genocide museam at the notorious S21 prison. This wa an interesting but harrowing experience. We also visited the Russian market and the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda which were pretty amazing.
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Memorial at the Killing Fields
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S21
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The Royal Palace

Today after a fairly leisurely start we visited Wat Phnom where we met some local wildlife and, in terms of paying the $1 foreigner entrance fee, Alex found he didn't look local enough. After walking down to the other end of town and having lunch we visited the Independance monument, which is in the middle of a big three lane roundabout, and the Liberation Monument. On the way back to the hotel we passed someone on the street offering haircuts and decided it was a good idea. They worked out fairly well and were good value at $2 each.

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Wat Phnom
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Independance Monoment
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Tomorrow morning we catch a bus to Siem Reap (Angkor).

Posted by robbiet239 03:59 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

overcast 31 °C

Having had our last and in my opinion most comfortable overnight bus ride from Nha Trang we arrived in Saigon at about 6.30 in the morning on what was both Alex's birthday and the morning of exam results. Having found a hotel with both some decent internet and a room with two singles rather than a double bed, I headed to the main electronics street to try and get my camera fixed. The first two days were spent waiting for universities and discovering that my camera was completely broken after someone had spent two hours completely taking it apart.

Over the next few days, with me sporting a new camera, we headed out to explore the city. We visited the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum, Cho Lon (China Town) and Notre Dame cathedral. The Reunification Palace and War Remnants museum were interesting and gave good insight into what the war was like for the local people. Although, it was obviously a bit biased. Having gone to China Town to search for Dim Sum, as we failed to have it in Hong Kong, we found it to be a rather more traditional China Town than London with lots of Chinese shops and few restaurants.

We also did a morning Vietnamese cookery course, which now makes us experts in Vietnamese cuisine. As the course was about 7km away from central Saigon we had some rather interesting taxi rides there. On Saturday we went to book it and our taxi driver took the most direct and the most heavily congested route in the city. We had seen we were on the right road and the taxi driver stopped to drop us off. However, it transpired that being so far from the centre he had seen another fare and kicked us out. This left us with about a 2km walk down the road where the buildings were seemingly numbered in no particular order. However, we found it and we were more able to direct our taxi driver the next day. It seemed that knowing the city isn't really a necessary qualification for taxi driver.

Generally Saigon is an interesting city with huge quantities of motor-bikes and traffic lights that seem more advisory than compulsory. This makes crossing the road slightly difficult as you just walk and assume the bikes will avoid you. It also has some crazy electrical wiring with tens of wires going down above the pavement on every street, occasionally below head height.

On Tuesday morning we have a 06.30 bus crossing the border into Cambodia and then on to Phenom Penh.

Posted by robbiet239 04:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

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