We haven't written for quite a long time but a lot of the last few weeks we've been busy doing nothing so hopefully it won't take too long for me to type or you to read. Nick finished the last blog in Kampot, Cambodia, saying that the next day we would be travelling up to Siem Reap. Well, before that I'd like to write about our evening in Kampot.
After Nick had finished blogging he rode back to the guest house to collect me so we could go to an evening of traditional dancing. We'd been shown a poster earlier in the day by a small boy who obviously didn't speak English and was walking round the streets showing the poster to everyone. It turned out to be a great night. The evening was organised by a local orphanage who put on a show at regular intervals to raise money for school equipment. Entrance is by donation and the crowd seemed to be half white, half local. The children ranged from around 6-16 and the show comprised of local dancing, singing and acting. They were absolutely brilliant, the dancers were amazingly graceful and perfectly in time and although we didn't understand the words the acting (and slapstick) was good enough for us to get the gist of the stories they acted out. We also had the added advantage of a local guy sat next to us to explain the finer details. I'm really glad we made the effort to go and knowing that the money went to an orphanage rather than a tourist company made it even better.
That ended up as quite a late night then we were up early the next day for our 11 hour bus trip to Siem Reap. That was very uneventful (except for a guy next to us eating fried crickets and sucking his teeth for most of the journey!) We arrived at our hostel quite late and by the time we'd showered, internet-ed, eaten and had a few drinks with our new Brasilian friend (who's name I can't remember) it was 1am!
Much later that morning we finally got up from bed and went out to explore Siem Reap. This is definitely the most touristy place in Cambodia but after the places we had been in it was a huge relief to be surrounded by other tourists and English speakers. The majority of the day was spent organizing our time in Siem Reap and shopping for essentials like shower gel, shampoo etc!!! Oh, the endless fun of travelling!! But, late that afternoon we had our first look at Angkor Wat! If you buy your ticket for the next day after 4.45pm you get entry to the temples for that evening included. So, at 4.45 we joined the queue, bought our tickets and headed to Phnom Bakheng, this was the first temple to be built on the site and is situated at the top of a natural hill (these are quite rare in Cambodia!) From here, us and the other million people there had a lovely view of the sunset over Lake Tonle Sap. After that it was back for a quick dinner and early bed ready for a big day exploring the temples the next day.
The whole temple complex is enormous and spread over a huge area so it is possible to buy tickets for one day, three days or seven days. Due to time restraints and cost we decided to buy a one day pass then if I wanted to go again I'd get another pass for the next day. The one day ticket means that you follow a short loop which takes you to all of the main sites. After speaking to friends who've been we had planned to cycle the route but our guesthouse more or less refused to rent us bicycles! They kept telling us it was far too far and too hot to cycle so in the end we gave in and rented a tuk tuk for the day. (We could have cycled it!)
In order to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat we had to leave the hostel at 4.30am the next morning!!!! (Yes, 4.30am exists at the start of a day as well as in the afternoon!) Unfortunately the sunset was a bit spoilt by heavy cloud but it was still impressive to sit and watch the outline of Angkor Wat slowly emerge from the darkness. We had intended to spent the whole day (until 5.30pm) exploring all of the temples on the short route plus some extras but after our 4am alarm call we found that we were exhausted and "all templed out" by 2pm. We did make it to all the temples on the short route but our plan to ask the tuk tuk driver to take us to another temple just didn't happen! I can't really describe the temples well enough, they're huge stone buildings covered in amazingly intricate carvings of Gods, Kings, apsara dancers and stories from ancient times but you have to see them to truly understand just how amazing they are. We did take a million and one photos though so if you're interested we can show you them all (don't worry we didn't put them all on the blog). One of the funniest things there was when we stopped for lunch and a young girl was trying to sell us books. Her English was perfect and when she realized that we weren't going to buy anything she was just chatting to us asking where we'd been on our trip. She was interested to know what South Americans look like as she's never seen any. When we said that they have dark hair and dark skin similar to hers she got a huge grin on her face and said "So they look normal then, like me?" Classic!
After heading back to the hostel the afternoon was spent doing little more than showering, eating and wandering before an early night.
Nick had another big day planned for the next day (1st Sept) so he was up at 6.30 to go out on a Honda XR250 off road bike ride with a company called Hidden Cambodia. Apparently the trip was good and he got to visit some places that most people don't (temple ruins and small villages) but there wasn't as much off roading as he'd hoped for which was a bit disappointing.
While Nick was off on the bike I visited the local museum which contains a lot of the original statues and carvings from Angkor Wat. A lot of the antiques were destroyed and looted during Pol Pot's time so to avoid everything being destroyed if something like that happened again all surviving relics were moved into the museum. It was really interesting to read about the origins and meaning of the carvings. After my museum visit a friendly local offered me a lift back to the market to get some food in exchange for an English conversation!! Yes, that really is all he wanted! After lunch, I wandered round the market then went to sit and read in the shade of a tree in the park. I managed about an hour reading before a tuk tuk driver joined me! He spent about 10 minutes trying to get me to go on a tour with him before giving up and just asking if he could talk to me and practice his English. Twice in one day!! He was very friendly though and we had a good chat before he decided that he should really go back to work.
That evening, with false confidence after my friendly Cambodian encounters during the day I suggested that maybe we could buy something from one of the children selling things on the street. There had been a group of them gathered by us trying to sell us bracelets, books and postcards and we had kept saying no until we finally gave in and bought one thing from one of them. Big mistake, NEVER EVER buy anything from a child on the street! Within 5minutes we were surrounded by children whining "Why you buy from him?" "What about meeee?" "Now you buy from me too" I think one of them was even calling us fu**ers for buying from someone other than him. It was really stressful and I ended up loosing it and raising my voice to them. To be honest though, I think the whole thing upset me more than it did them! It ruined what had been a good day and we ended up hiding in our room watching TV for the rest of the evening.
The next day was another early rise and a very long trip across the border to Thailand. Oh, what a relief to be back in the civilization of Bangkok!! No hastle from tuk tuk drivers, street stalls and street children - heaven! The evening was spent getting measured for some new clothes and booking our trip to Koh Tao for the next evening. We could also eat some delicious, cheap street food (the stuff in Camodia was disgusting so we ended up eating in Western restaurants whenever we could!)
On Thursday we just wandered round the city for the day exploring parts we didn't see when we came here 3 years ago. We then had a mad tuk tuk journey to the tailors and back in rush hour traffic to have our clothes fitted before leaving on the 6.45 bus to Koh Tao!
Our bus, bizarrely, got us to the docks at Chumphon at 3.15am when our boat to Koh Tao wasn't due until 7 so us and our fellow passengers ended up sleeping on park benches outside the ferry company for a few hours. I don't quite understand why the bus couldn't have left Bangkok later - oh well, that's Thailand for you!
I'm not going to write in detail about our week in Koh Tao as it would be very boring for me and you! Although, I have to mention our first night there, when we met Britta and Rainer (two Germans) in a bar. We just asked if some seats were free and several hours later after having dinner together and several drinks we parted ways! We had a great night but travelling can be so random!
So, Koh Tao in general. Nick did a two day free diving course. This is where you learn to dive without air and I think he got down to 23m depth which was about 1min 20 sec holding his breath!! He even did a swim-through (where you swim through an underwater tunnel) with no air!!!! I decided not to do the course as I like breathing! While he was doing that I spent an afternoon walking to the other side of the island and snorkeling and an afternoon climbing which was great fun (though I was a bit rubbish!) My mornings were spent looking for accommodation for us for when Nick finished his course. I had intended to do some diving as well but the water didn't seem particularly clear and after seeing how rough the sea was on Nick's second day of free diving I decided to stick with snorkeling.
Our last three days were spent walking to various beaches to snorkel. For those who know Koh Tao, we went to Shark Bay (no sharks, dead coral but lots of fish), Sai Naan (some live coral and lots of fish) and Cape Thian (amazing!!! Beautiful coral, eels, jelly fish, trigger fish and thousands of other tropical fish). We also had a night out with Craig (from the Gibbon Experience!) and a lovely evening, just the two of us where we had a fish bbq dinner then sat on the beach for a drink afterwards. In general we were a bit disappointed with Koh Tao as it's so much more developed now than it was when we were here 3 years ago. They kept having water and power shortages as no-one's figured out the infrastructure and there are too many people there! But, it was still a great break and gave us time to relax before commencing the final three weeks of our trip!
We left Koh Tao at 10.30am on 10th Sept in torrential rain and arrived in Bangkok at 8pm where we met up with Nigel (my older brother) and his girlfriend Au. We went for food then ended up staying out until 3am dancing the night away.
The next day, after a late breakfast, Au took us to an outlet shopping mall where Nick and I stocked up on a few cheap clothes, we then went to another shopping mall where we bought more cheap clothes before heading back to the Ko San road where we bought some cheap CD's!
And finally, we're almost up to date!!
Yesterday morning Nick and I collected our tailor made clothes then Au and Nigel took us to Chatuchak Market, the largest market in Thailand. They seem to sell everything, clothes, home furnishings, snakes, iguanas, turtles etc. etc…. We didn't buy anything but it was really interesting to see and Au was explaining which animals are sold for pets and which for food or fighting. After that we said goodbye to Nigel and Au and caught the sky train across town to meet up with Giles, one of Nick's friends from Triumph who now works in the Bangkok factory. Giles lives with his girlfriend Natalie in a beautiful apartment complex complete with pool and gym. As his apartment is full of visiting family members at the moment he has very kindly arranged for us to have a small apartment of our own!! It's great - we have our own house!! So, last night after a lovely meal courtesy of Giles's Mum and Sister, Nick and I settled down in our own apartment where we could listen to music, watch TV and make our own hot drinks - brilliant. Thank you Giles and family!
And so to today. We've done nothing except swim, laze around the pool and write the blog, preparing ourselves for our flight to Hong Kong tomorrow. And our triumphant return to the UK in 3 weeks!!
Hope you're all well and we'll see you very soon.