Welcome to our travel blog! Sorry for the late start but we have been nowhere near a decent interweb connection for ages now. Here goes...
We arrived in Bangkok on the 2nd. Bangkok is a huge sprawling city of 12 million, an amazing constrast between towering glass skyscrapers and filthy peasant shacks. The traffic is intense, on the journey in from the airport we saw an adult and four children on a single scooter, with no helmets, driving the wrong way up the street!!! Madness.
The main backpacker area, the notorious Khao San Road, is a lot of fun, lined with bars, amazing restaurants and stalls selling basically everything a tourist could possibly want. Touts line the streets trying to hussle you into buying all sorts - "Tuk tuk?", "Suit?", "Maaasssaaaage!?". People of all nationalities are milling around everywhere getting drunk - pretty hard not to when a bucket of rum/coke/red bull is only $3! Very naughty part of the world ;)
The food in Thailand is absolutely tremendous, and so cheap you can literally eat out three times a day. The stall right outside our digs did green curry, pad thai etc for 40 baht - that's about 80p (8 kroner)!
Almost as soon as we got to the Khao San Rd area and got checked into a guest house, Elin had changed her status on facebook to "Elin Lundkvist - is in Bangkok!" Who would reply but Amy Goodwin!
The plan was always head straight for the beach but we simply had to delay for another day, as Amy's been in Oz for almost a year...
While we waited Elin went shopping and I went to Sor Vorapin, a Muay Thai gym just off the Khao San Rd. Training here is the real deal, a must for any martial arts fan. The instructors are like bad guys from Van Damme movies, the heat and humidity is unreal, but you learn more in three hours than you would in three months back home...
The next day we jumped (I limped) onto a nice air conditioned bus bound for Koh Chang with our new accomplice. The 'VIP toilet' on the bus is a good example of how things work here in Thailand - its just a hole cut in the metal floorpan of the bus, so whatever you drop just goes directly onto the road below, no doubt splattering all over the vehicle behind! At least there's a bucket of water to wash yourself with.
So later that day we were on the ferry to Koh Chang from Trat, right next to the Cambodian border. It's kind of like the island in Lost, 3,500 sq. km of rainforest that rises up sharply out of the sea, with beautiful white beaches and tropical green water all round. Barry!
We got a couple of beach hut/bungalow things right on White Sands Beach and settled down for some serious drinking and sunburn sessions. Good times! Koh Chang is pretty close to paradise. Beautiful sunsets, super cheap food and booze, what more could you want? Its the kind of place people go and just get stuck.
To give you an idea just how nice and chilled it is, we met an Irish guy who had been there 13 months and hadn't even been all the way round the island yet! He was having a great time! If only...
After about a week of this the girls wanted to get moving. If I had of stayed there another day I reckon I would have got stuck too!
We parted company with Miss Goodwin (who was on her way to Ko Tao for more of the same) and embarked on an epic (read:horrible) bus journey to Siem Reap.
Cambodia is totally different to Thailand, much poorer and more run down. There's no escaping the fact that the country has basically been at war since the 15th century. It's totally lawless, pretty deserving of its reputation for guns, drugs and sex tourism. At one point we found ourselves in a very shady gun range offering to shoot everything from AK47s to pistols to grenade launchers! Also on the menu? Cows and chickens! Use your imagination guys...
After a crazy night out in Siem Reap (we were with a wee local guy we met, and almost certainly the only foreigners in the club), we did the obligatory visit to Angkor Wat.
Angkor Wat is (amongst other things), the set where they filmed Indiana Jones, the biggest religious monument in the world, and the mother and father of all tourist traps. Its a vast ancient city built a thousand years ago, every inch of it deliactely hand carved from stone. Its also a good example of the corruption that plagues Cambodia, every penny of the $Millions$ they take in entrance fees every year goes into the pockets of two shady Korean business men! Its the legacy of a proud civilization that flourished for over six hundred years while we (the West) were still in the Dark Ages.
So next stop Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital. If Bangkok is naughty P.Penh is ten times naughtier! We got there to find the main backpacker area, Boeng Kak Lake, has been completely ruined by over zealous land reclamation. Basically they are filling the lake in to build (another) five star hotel resort, leaving all the guesthouses and many many people's houses two feet deep in water. The solution? Bulldoze the lot! Thanks for the advice Lonely Bloody Planet!
So after finding a room somewhere else (that wasn't flooded) we went on a wee mission to explore the place. P.Penh is one of the craziest place on Earth, part nice French colonial town (baguette anyone?) part lawless frontier town. It really shouldn't work but it somehow does. Trucks, buses, tuk tuks and of course the ubiquitious scooters battle for every inch of road space. Beggars with arms and legs blown off by landmines limp across the road on crutches somehow not getting run over. Red lights mean nothing and driving the wrong way up the road is common practice. Hilariously, we pass a giant billboard that advises "Drive Smart Drive Safe!" - as if!!
No visit to P.Penh would be complete without a trip to the Killing Fields. A huge glass tower full of human skulls stands as a memorial on the site where the Khmer Rouge (communist guerillas) murdered almost half the population between 1975-1978. Mass graves are everywhere and bones and bits of clothing still poke out from under the ground. For once i was lost for words! We (Elin and I, the tuk tuk driver, an Englishman called Sam and some German guy), then went to the chilling S-21 torture museum. You leave feeling anger, sadness and gratitude all at once. Put it this way, the fact that most of the Khmers (Cambodians) are still laughing and joking is a tribute to human nature. The Khmer Rouge, by the way, are all dead or on trial - so there is some justice left in the world.
After that we decided we needed to go somewhere more civilized and relaxed (just me and Elin - Sam went to Bangkok and the German guy went to a club where there are gunfights almost every weekend! Good luck mate.)
So we flew back to Bangkok and took an overnight train to Chiang Mai. Our hostess, a large scary ladyboy called Nathalie (Nathan?) told us all about how Chiang Mai is a lovely place, and she wasn't too far wrong.
So here we are, hiding from the rain writing this blog. Hope everything in Europe is going well for everyone we left behind! Thanks for reading, your comments would be much appreciated. We will be back soon with some more tales, and photos of us falling off elephants (probably).
Much love people!
Gus and Elin x