Last day in Phnom Penh

 

On my final day in Phnom Penh I took a late afternoon boat trip on a lovely old rice boat, converted for the purpose of viewing the rivers, their life and of course a sunset……….We started out on the Tonle Sap river, which runs through Phnom Penh and proceeded downstream to the point where it joins the mighty Mekong; we then travelled upstream on the Mekong for a few kilometers to see the Vietnamese floating village……………an amazing sight, all these flimsy looking houses floating on large lengths of bamboo lashed together………a whole community existing on these constructions, mainly by fishing; the Mekong is a rich hunting ground for fishermen……………….

 

 

 

 

The have’s and the have not’s living side by side

This looked like an old bath tub with a customised outboard motor……………

and……………….just a few shots taken while riding in a tuk-tuk on my last day in Phnom Penh……………

The chicken run…………….

and finally…………The Pavilion, the very nice little 20 room hotel that I stayed in while in Phnom Penh…….

 

Siem Reap to Phnom Penh

I have just made the bus journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on-board a bus from Giant Ibis Transport, and I must say that it was an excellent experience, particularly coming close on the heels of the tiresome trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap; there are cheaper options running on this well trodden route, but if you don’t mind stumping up $13 US, this is the company to go with………..my  hotel in Siem reap booked the ticket for me and took my payment (without charging me any commission)….. The thirteen dollars included pick up from my hotel in the company’s air-con 20 seater (negating a taxi or tuk-tuk fare to the bus terminal) and as soon as the bus set off, a bottle of water and a lovely fresh, warm croissant, in hygienically sealed packaging.

 

It was a new(ish) bus with very comfortable reclining seats, individual and direction controllable air-con vents, that could be shut completely if you got too cold (which you do in lightweight clothing)…………. and on board wi-fi……… wow!….we made a toilet stop for 5 mins after a couple of hours and a 45 min lunch break a couple of hours later; the journey took 6 hours and 15 minutes in total, the driver was very good, he drove quickly and assertively, but not recklessly, and the bus felt safe and well maintained; when on occasion, he needed to brake suddenly, you could feel the power of the big discs stopping the bus quickly and in a straight line; after experiencing the buses in India, with their twisted chassis and questionable breaking systems this bus ride was luxurious in the extreme!

 

The landscape between SR and HCMC is relentlessly flat, but gazing out of the (clean) bus window, I got some lovely views of Cambodian rural life; thousands of mostly wooden built houses proliferate along the side of the road, all built high on stilts, as testament to how heavily this whole vast area floods when the monsoons visit; traveling, as I did, beneath the canopy of a clear blue sky and fierce sun in late January, it seemed a most improbable event, but the whole landscape of fields and dwellings are sculptured to accommodate the inevitable drenching that is to come.

Where we stopped for lunch (middle of nowheresville) there were a couple of roadside stalls selling the most remarkable dried fish (pass)……….

 

The luxurious Giant Ibis bus………..

 

The relentlessly flat landscape…………..

 

Anyone for dried fish?

 

 

I think I’ll stick to Bresaola and sun-dried tomatoes………………

Madame poisson………. in her hammock, waiting for her next punter………could be a while!

Journeys end………………Phnom Penh……..snap taken from a tuk-tuk on the way to my hotel from the bus terminal………….

The Temples Of Angkor Wat

 

My raison d’être, like that of so many other people, for traveling to Siem Reap in Cambodia, was to visit the complex of temples at Angkor Wat; built in the early 12th century, originally as a Hindu temple for the god Vishnu, it was later converted to Buddhist and became the epicenter of the Khmer Empire; it is, I believe, the largest religious monument in the world, and having walked for many kilometers around 4 of the main temples, I can certify that it is vast…………..built entirely of stone, it may lack to some eyes, the colourful aesthetic of some of the temples in Thailand, for example, but its size and state of preservation for its age are mightily impressive.

 

I will exercise restraint with the number of photos that I post, primarily because there are only so many Temple shots that anyone wants to see, but also because photographs don’t seem to get near capturing the sense that you feel when there………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok to Siem Reap (Cambodia)

I left Bangkok on Friday morning to travel to Siem Reap in Cambodia to visit the temples at Angkor Wat…………this road trip is one of the most, if not the most, talked about and written about journeys in South East Asia; its legendary status is mainly due to the amount of scams and scammers surrounding it……….bus scams, taxi scams, visa scams………you name it, and there will be a scam of some description for it.

 

However, when a topic has such notoriety, if one has any sense (which I am laying claim to) one researches the subject reasonably well; having done so, I did not get led into any of the “Visa offices” on the Thai side of the border, which look like the real deal to the unsuspecting, but are just another scam………. I had an American twenty dollar bill ready, which is all you should pay for a Cambodian visa – but the Cambodian visa officials are as blatantly corrupt as everyone else in this border region, where scamming tourists is a national pastime…….

 

The road journey is about 266 miles, but having left my hotel in Bangkok at 6am, I did not arrive in Siem Reap until 5pm; the border crossing at Poipet took two and a half hours, which did not help………..queuing up in a shed for your visa, and then again in another shed for fingerprint scanning (not to be confused with scamming) having a photo of yourself recorded and your visa finally ratified………..Welcome to Cambodia !!

 

The forward view from seat 2A on the bus from Bangkok to the border……..I had bought the ticket in advance and it was the 7.30am bus…………traffic in Bangkok is always a nightmare, so I left my hotel at 6am to be sure of arriving at Mo Chit bus terminal on time….I got there at 6.45……….the bus left at 6.55…………

 

I took a few snapshots of the mayhem which is the Cambodian border town of Poipet, while I was queuing for my visa……………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last day in Bangkok………….for a few weeks………….

I paid a visit to the Jim Thompson house and museum in Bangkok on my last day there; Jim Thompson was an American born in 1906 who fell in love with Thailand and lived there for many years………..in the fifties, he was almost entirely responsible for the regeneration of the Thai silk industry, sending samples to fashion houses in Paris, Milan, London and New York.

 

This lady was sitting in the grounds of the house spinning silk

She then treated the few of us early morning visitors to some traditional Thai dancing

 

This is a Buddhist shrine outside a shopping mall

That this cat decided to investigate…………

 

I have discovered a wonderful vegetable in Thailand “Pak boong fai dang” (which translates to morning glory)………..stir fried with garlic, chilli and black bean sauce, it has become a staple in my Thai diet……….

 

The cooks at my favourite street restaurant, preparing my morning glory…………..

Accompanied by a portion of chicken chop-chop………..and washed down by a large bottle of Chang beer………….215 bhat………..about £4.50…….any takers?   ………last I remember, the Turks Head and the St Margarets  Tavern were charging £3.90 and £4.25 respectively for a small bottle of Peroni……………….swivel…………

 

These 2 ladies play traditional Thai music every evening in the lobby of the Amari Watergate hotel

View of the Baiyoke Tower, the tallest building in Thailand………….as seen through the window of my room on the 31st floor of the Amari Watergate Hotel……………..

Floating Market

After a fantastic day on Saturday, visiting temples, I decided on a different day on Sunday, a trip to one of the wonderful floating markets, this particular one is known as Talingchan; these places are so alive with the colours and vibrancy of everyday life, that you cannot help but walk around them wearing a “lottery grin” ……………….

Yada kindly consented to be my tour guide again and organised a 2 hour boat trip on the river and various backwaters and canals that make up this amazing network of waterways………

 

Latte to go…………….or…………. Satay to go…………

 

Huge shoals of catfish are attracted to the floating market, and there are stalls selling various breads and different live creatures for people to feed to them…………

 

 

Yada hunted down this particular stall selling the most wonderful and succulent grilled scallops, for our lunch…………..

Yada, about to start on the grilled scallops……………

 

 

Did you say, “just a small portion of rice? yes, I thought you did”

 

I imagine that in America, they probably have “drive in” laundry’s……………..not here, this is a “paddle up to” laundry; I doubt that they will start to appear on the banks of the Thames………………..

Meals on wheels…………….sans wheels……………….

 

Waterside temple……………..

We stopped at one of the many “plant farms” that abound along the waterways……….this particular orchid really captured my sense of aesthetic……not just the colour, but the incredible three dimensional texture of the petals……………If Prince Charles saw it he would probably abandon Camilla and propose to it……………

Well as you all know by now, I do love a boat, especially one that has been adorned by flowers……….

 

Bangkok………….second episode……………

Well, here I am back in Thailand, or as Snells (Neph) so wonderfully labels it, La-La Land

I have allocated myself almost a week in Bangkok on this visit, to allow myself time to see some of the attractions that I did not have time to see on my previous visit; the Jim Thompson house and museum being one of them, waterways and floating markets, and some of the amazing temples that are scattered throughout this asylum of a city, oh, and time to sit and enjoy some of the wonderful food at the street stalls……….

 

I have already visited 3 wonderful Buddhist temples, Wat Arun, Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Phra Chetuphon, which was a full day’s viewing, and probably still not enough time………….. I shall no doubt, soon be wearing an orange robe and giving mouth to mouth resuscitation to dying mosquitos as I recant my flimsily held christianity and embrace Buddhism…………………

 

Approaching Wat Arun (The Temple Of The Dawn) fairly obviously from the river; the start of my temple viewing day…………..

 

 

The amount of work and detail of design that was invested in these beautiful temples is quite simply, staggering; and when you get close to them and your sense of perspective suddenly informs you of their enormous scale, you stand in awe of every breathtaking detail……………………………….(well, I did anyway)

This cool dude had set himself up between some of the food stalls outside one of the temples……………and was just playing some nice sax…………because he could!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Yada……………………………. a lovely lady that I met in Bangkok; she kindly agreed to accompany me, or I should say more accurately, guide me, around the 3 main temples that I visited on Saturday…………it was a great day, and a fantastic experience to view the temples with the guidance of Yada, teaching me the etiquette of temple visiting as we made our way around the vast complexes of the temples………she is not from Bangkok, but was on a weekend “Temple” visit from Surat Thani in the south of Thailand, where she lives and works at a school as a maths teacher……………it was indeed a privilege to have her assistance and her company………… and to have found a lovely new friend!

 

 

 

The statue of “Reclining Buddha”  at Wat Phra Chetuphon, is an incredible sight………………about 15 meters high and over 40 meters long, it is an image that you remember long after your viewing…………

 

 

 

 

 

River Sal Cruise

 

In-between Christmas and the new year, I took a boat trip with some good friends; the trip started about a mile upstream from the estuary of the river Sal and took us down through the estuary and out onto the Arabian sea in search of dolphins………..about a mile out from the coast we started to see many dolphins, although I failed to get a decent photo of any of them.

 

The boat then turned and headed back up the river for a few miles, and as it did so, the view slowly changed form a menagerie of fishing boats and other vessels, either moored or going about their business on the river, to the upstream tranquility of lush riverside vegetation and abundant birdlife…………my recent and extravagant investment in a pair of Leica compact binoculars finally paying dividend……..

 

We had left the mooring a little before 10am, and at about 1.00pm we dropped anchor for lunch; I must say that the lunch was excellent, they produced 2 huge kingfish, that were cut in to steaks and grilled with garlic butter and lemon, this was preceded by a starter of king prawns cooked in the same way and they were really tender and succulent………..all drinks were included in the price of the ticket (about £10.00) and they were more than generous with them; I only had a couple of small beers, having developed a real aversion to drinking alcohol during the day, and I had ridden my scooter down to the starting point and had to ride it back some 10 kilometers when the trip finished at about 3.30pm…………a most enjoyable day, spent in really good company; my friends Clive and Lynda (who I have been to stay with in their lovely house near Perpignan) were on board, with their daughter Claire and her husband Russ who were visiting from Australia……..also my good friend Marie-Laure and her sister Marie- Jo and her husband Alan, who all live near Marseilles and have kindly invited me to stay with them next summer…………..

Just about to set off……………from the left…….Alan (husband of Marie-Jo) Clive, Lynda, Russ and Claire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2  lunchtime Kingfish

Just dropped anchor for lunch

My good friends from France………Marie-Laure (centre) her sister Marie-Jo (right) and on the left their friend Lile (from Norway)

 

Upstream panorama at lunchtime

 

The old ferry across the Sal which I have used many times when riding to the southern beaches of Agonda and Palolem…………a new bridge is now under construction that will render the ferry redundant………….but this being India, the jobs of the 4 or 5 men that operate it are probably safe beyond their lifetime expectancy………….

 

I have had a great deal of trouble uploading this post, so I am not sure if all photos have uploaded successfully or if any have been inserted more than once…………apologies from the editing director for any errors…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castles made of sand, return into the sea……….eventually

A young English guy spent a couple of hours yesterday building a great sand-castle……….. Rekha, the twelve year old  daughter of one of the beach sellers took great joy in being allowed to decorate it with shells and starfish…………..English engineering and Indian artistic flair, great combination!

 

 

Later in the day I saw this one man business coming along the road………the resourcefulness of the people here never ceases to amaze

 

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2013

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL FRIENDS NEAR AND FAR………I HOPE THAT 2013 BRINGS HEALTH AND HAPPINESS TO EVERYONE……………………………

Last night I spent new years eve in the traditional way; a meal at a beach shack (Castello’s)  a few drinks, then a few more drinks………..some terrible music, played at a deafening level, through appalling sound systems as neighbouring shacks tried to outgun each other………………then as the new year arrived, multiple firework displays, lots of hugging and shaking hands of people from around the world…………………jolly good fun……..