A Travellerspoint blog

That nostalgic, looking into the mirror blog....

sunny 33 °C

Here we are captain, back safe and sound to where we left off. In fact right now im sitting in the exact same seat on the exact same computer where I wrote the first blog eeeeshk two months ago EXACT (even down to the right hour). Creepy. Anywho, in order to stop being a downer and generally complain about how over touristed Bali is and how evil all the touts are here compared to the rest of Asia, lets be genuine travel writers for once, go from start to finish, and generally give you all advice for what to do, and what to definitely miss (think of it as the first useful lonely planet/travelfish article):

Ok straight off the bat, as I said back then, dont try and be a hero and attempt a horrific 12 hour bus ride straight after 24 hours on a plane. If death doesnt get you, insanity will. Laos is easily the most easy going country we have been to, and for anyone who has been to Bali and doesn't think they could cope with Laos..just do it, its quite possibly the most amazing country, even though we only spent two weeks there, could have easily spent another month.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
Kuang Xi Waterfall, I mean I havent seen many waterfalls, but that was truely awe inspiring, and then some.
Luang Prabang in general, its such a nice genuine sleepy place you could easily plan to spend a couple of days here and find yourself a couple of months later wondering what happened.
Minivans as transport bewteen cities, they aren't much more expensive than the bus, and you'll arrive in half the time, and less likely to require surgery to fix that spine of yours.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Lao Buses, dont listen to what anyone says there is no such thing as VIP/Express/Air Con buses and if your game enough to try the 24 hour trip to Vietnam, good luck, and happy surgery.
Morning Alms, the monks really dont benefit from it, you get taken for a ride and then guilt tripped, if you really want to see the government imposed tourist 'show' just sit well away from the sidelines and you might be safe from religious touts (I use the term 'might' very loosely.)

Well, to all my Vietnamese friends out there, and I love you all to bits, but your country is a mission and a half. Nowhere have I seen so many motorbikes, and so many people with such little efficiency, I'm sorry, but it had to be said. Possibly if you spend at least a month travelling around it, it might grow on you, but after two weeks for us, we are ready to tick that off the 'done' list, and move on. Exception is Hoi An, but thats only because of insanely good quality accomodation for next to nothing.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
Having cocktails in skybar at night, overlooking one of Hanoi's many lakes, it takes the spin off things, and you might just get away from the noise of the streets long enough to hear yourself think.
Hoi An clothes, not as much of a rip off as you would think, in fact often they are higher quality than many mid range NZ suits, and at a fraction of the price. One thing though, avoid shoes - they havent quite mastered that yet.
Using a scooter/motorbike to get around the city, if you possibly can. We understand that close to 20 million scooters can be daunting, but they are a lot safer and more fun than you would think (and they beat the hell out of the taxi's crawling along)

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
The pure size of Saigon, its insane and mind-boggling. On top of this it hasnt really been thought out, and has just thrown 20 Auckland size cites together and just tried to make it work. Do your research before coming here.
Vietnam Airlines, we got stuck in Hoi An, flights were always delayed, and just generally failed at any form of efficiency. Better to go with Jetstar for their price, there's no real difference between either of them with regards to actually getting you there on time..

Far and away its quite probably the second most authentic Asian country we came across and is definitely not for the faint hearted. This is one place where 3rd world really doesnt care to hide itself. Having said that, after a month of street-kids blocking your way to your motorbike asking you for money, you probably wont care for the 3rd world factor, and just take the country as is. When you do its an amazing country with amazing sights and really genuine people if you can find an organisation to stay with. Hopefully when you go to Phnom Penh, Central Market will have finished renovation as its a rather painful tuk-tuk/moto ride over the roads around there.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
If your looking for that isolated, beach front escape that you think is Thailand, go to Sihanoukville, or more specifically Otres beach. If you can keep the ants away you probably have the only place in Southeast Asia where you can get a beachfront bungalow with mosquito nets for under 10 bucks.
Working with kids at an orphanage. Dont take a scary name like orphanage to heart, you'll probably find the coolest people on earth there just desperate to have fun. 3 rules though:
1. If your going, go for a while, nothing disrupts a kids schedule more than a foreigner stumbling their way around for 12 hours playing hop-scotch and duck duck goose, then leaving.
2. Dont think for a moment these kids dont know how to play. Believe it or not they're still kids and they still know how to play games, dont think your showing them the invention of fun, they get it.
3. Try and keep it educational, when you do you earn people's respect a lot more, and the kids like you that much better when they know where you are coming from and what you want from them.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Petty Crime, it does suck and you really should try to just keep things firmly attached to you whenever you are out, there are people out there who will take an opportunity just like anywhere else in the world.
Phnom Penh lakefront, ok maybe not the biggest cross ever but if your looking for civilised people, you wont find them at night at lakefront thats all we are saying. There are lots of options for accomodation everywhere around the city, and theres no reason not to just go to lakefront for meals (they are really good)

We didnt call it Thailand coz we have only been to this one mega city and so the point are pretty brief, but in general, just like any big city it has its ups and downs. In Bangkok, just avoid the roads whenever possible, learn the skytrain route (soon its being extended to the airport) and stick to that and walking, it should get you everywhere you need to go within the CBD.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
The skytrain, it is amazing for getting around, is a fraction the price of a taxi and even though its network is rather limited (just try getting to Ko San Road on it) its worth the 120 Baht per day.
Accomodation thats not right in the city - when you get out even just a little bit you do find people far more genuine and you get treated with a tad more respect rather than just another money source...its quite novel really.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Daypasses on the river ferry. Its an insane ripoff for 150 Baht, considering you normally pay 25 for a single trip to anywhere on the network.
Illegal taxis, sorta common sense here but is generally impossible to get out of once your in, and at a reasonable price without getting into a fight. Just check the taxi license inside, sit back and enjoy the gridlock.

Possibly the biggest surprise of the trip in just how much fun it was. If your going to Asia, try desperately to throw this into your plans to go there, you really arent supporting the government too much (try staying backpacker in non-govt. places), and by actually going there and buying things off locals you jump start the naturally occuring economy rather than the government one.

Big Ogre Green Ticks:
Middle of nowhere places (like Mawlmyine) its great for experiencing Asia like it used to be/ how it is away from tourists eyes, and what you lose in edible food and quality of accomodation, is made up for by the sheer novelty of it all. The people - most people in Asia who start a conversation, generally want something from you..not Myanmar - talking to a foreigner for the sake of it was commonplace, as was being followed by teenage girls on scooters..
Briyani rice - its probably the closest your going to get to safe 'whole' food in Myanmar, its very lightly spiced rice, and the Burmese know how to do it well.

Big Ugly Red Crosses:
Train and bus timetables - in order to get anywhere lying down, ie on a sleeper train your going through the day, and for a sitting up bus - you're pretty much always going through the night. Not fun.
The quality of accomodation - quite possibly the worst in actual quality around Asia in any price range, but they are all much of a muchness, so you might just have to grin and bear it here unfortunately...except of course in Mawlmyine...avoid the Breeze resthouse like the plague...its prison in baby blue.

Well, that pretty much sums up two months...eeshk. Of course theres heaps we have missed out, but thats mainly so you will actually have to talk to us about the trip and cant just go off what the blog says haha. But in actual fact we havent really over inflated anything we have said, Asia can and is pretty much as raw as it is but its quite possibly one of the most jaw-dropping/life changing/awe-inspiring/insert your own melodramatic terminology.

Have Fun,

and Peace Out.

C :)

Posted by carl.adams 18:44 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

Government Intervention and Black-market Shorts..

Well to all of you who say that our blog is rather bland and isnt entirely relevent to 99.8% of our trip, we would just like to give a massive poked out tongue expression and say that the Burmese (oops, sorry..Myanmar) government, respectfully disagrees with you. This all unfolded rather quickly as soon as we posted up the blog and pretty much within the hour our computers spontaneously shut down and we were suddenly no longer able to access any of our email addresses or post anything on the blog, of course had we heeded peoples advice to 'watch your backs' on the internet, we took a carefree note out of the hippy book and did it anyway. So :P to all of you who say its boring!

So to round off a rather whirlwind trip to Myanmar we tried a few more Indian places, ate full meals for around 40 cents US (consisting of Biryani - spiced rice, and something else that looked like slush). Now for once we really went local with the meals in this city, admittedly not by choice but my the fact that there was really only one western place in town..and the food there was even more average. So these 'hole in the wall' restauraunts, they call them.. sorta think of Aladdins cave, but with really bad lighting, all the gold replaced with plastic stools rated to carry the weight of a 5-7 year old, throw up some collapsable tables, pin to the wall a nice decorative flower and ta-da, you have an Indian restaurant. In fact, Lonely Planet regarded this as the best Indian place in town (watch as lonely planet flies out of train window). But we survived and made it to yet another train which is where we will pick the story back up.

Hallucinagenic berries, basically what Korean's are to rice, what Kiwi's are to rugby, and what Chinese are to bad driving, Burmese are to hallucinagenic berries. What this means in practice is that if you really want to interact, or use the locals to get anywhere you really need to get it done by 10am or the locals will be chirpy, talkative, but in the end completely useless with their berry jucie covere teeth (picture dracula after eating oprah..thats how red their teeth were), which in actual fact probably assists the government in doing their evils, but while no one seems the wiser..cest la vie. Of course that's just a small part of the 'Burma experience' another part is the pick-up trucks that are now buses, and were most likely left behind after the British left and drive along like the streamrollers they are (WWII Chevvy's for the nerdier among you)..

Now remember how we talked about the train coming down with the whole 1901 constructed, same train blah blah blah? Well, we aren't entirely sure how they constructed it but the journey back was 5x rougher on the tracks (the Burmese lady who was sitting next to us had her eyes just about pop out of her head every 2 minutes as she grasped the side of the train (think she must've had some lower back problem) fortunately, not being her, but being able to watch, made the next 9 hours pass rather seemlessly. Except for one small attempt at an armed roadblock, but after a few people throwing some notes out the windows the train was back on its merry way (they were shouting things in Burmese and waving buddhist flags - ahh the great buddha would be proud). Not that we were the least bit concerned either that or the litre of sprite we each consumed on the journey sent us on a caffeine high and almost in hysterics over it (more berries please, but then it was back to Yangon, and back to Beautyland II, where we changed from room 302 to the 'pearl room' (you can say ooh la la, we thought it at check in, even though it was $6 cheaper than room 302)...but then we encountered the stairs. So in order to get to this 'pearl room' you hike up 5 flights of stairs that a slinky would have had to parachute down, get onto the roof, and then climb up another set of rather questionable stairs. Needless to say we have now realised we need to get to a gym asap back in New Zealand. More indian food and powercuts in Yangon sorted out our afternoon and evening (as we now had rather limited access to the internet, and the powercuts were delightfully timed for when we were mid-meal plunging us into darkness, but thats just part of the fun that is Myanmar).

So it was off to bed nice and early for a 4am get up for our flight...which lucky for us just happened to be mid powercut, and if you have ever tried to wake up, in the dark, then stumble around a pitch black room for 30 minutes getting ready, you'll know what I mean when I say it sucks...and then we had those stairs with our 20kg packs again (on an off topic note, how cool would it be to have a slinky that could take bags up stairs. Pure Genious.), and then we got our breakfast with umm dried bread (the toaster obviously wasnt working) with mashed banana on it which was actually suprisingly good. Yet another flight and then we are back in Bangkok (supposedly called the City of Angels).

Now Bangkok is big...really big and aside from the fact that it has anywhere between 20 and 35 million people depending on who you talk to, its almost impossible to get across. As in I think Auckland possibly has a better public transport system....i know...that bad. As in it took over 90 minutes to get to Ko San Road, the backpacker mother-ship of south east asia but in actual fact was rather underwhelming, lots of hippies drinking, oldies photographing, backpackers buying "I survived Ko San Road" t-shirts. But for us, the more experienced backpackers *cough*, we actually felt the whole thing was rather overpriced and left within the hour back to the safety of Huamark...Back to being the only foreigners and back to being stared at. Phew..

Today, another flight and another country. Indonesia was nice enough to put up the visa on arrival fee a whopping 250% to $25 USD, which put a bit of a sting on things.. And then we were in an area known as Australia's 8th State, or pretty much Asia lite. Here, things have a bit more sting in their tail with just generally insanely over-priced clothes (you get ushered into a store and then get talked to in hushed tones about black-market clothes and $5 prices...we paid less than half that in Cambodia, and pretty much everywhere else.) Along with most other things...but hey, I guess that just goes with the Australian territory.

(Had to finish on an Australian insult..haha)

Tune in for the next..and LAST (yippeee, yeeeeehahahahahahaha) blog!

C :)

Posted by carl.adams 00:31 Comments (0)

Planes, Trains and 1960's automobiles

Well, welcome everyone to yet another blog, and for those who have missed the last couple, welcome back and great you have ya! Anyway so now we are in a rather remote area called Mawlamyine which is around a 10 hour train trip from a placed called Yangon, which is only a 90 minute flight from Bangkok (and is more than likely the first city name that you recognize.) Like the rest of Asia, Myanmar has been changing its name with each season, and so you may be more familiar with the terms Burma (the country) and Rangoon (The capital city - now Yangon). So how we got here is rather a story itself and funnily enough starts in Cambodia (as all obscure stories do haha).

Well in planning this trip we decided in Cambodia to try and start arranging exactly what we are doing here in the country and just where we wanted to go, and with only 5 days our time-line was rather restricted. SO we headed down to pretty much every travel agent in Phnom Penh to try and arrange some sort of train/bus to leave the city and basically found out that nothing could actually be done outside the country unless you are a tourist on an 'organized (anyone who has been to Asia will tell you this term is used rather loosely)' Long story short however, it was impossible for us, and we were told in no uncertain terms that we would have to wait until we got to the country (the 5 travel agents we spoke to in Bangkok repeated this rather annoyingly). SO with yet another nice and early 4am wake up call we packed our bags at the all seasons Huamark (if you can find it on a map your doing better that the 92% of taxi drivers who have no idea where that is, or where in fact the suburb Huamark is... ah the joys of not staying on Khao San Road (the backpacker central with its own "I survived Khao San Road" clothing line. But anyway we pile of the plane in Yangon.

But firstly its important to realise just how few people come here, only 700 per year from both Australia and New Zealand combined, and all the backpackers we have spoken to so far have basically said "wow, Myanmar...your rugged aren't you?" (both our families would disagree with these people, and with the stories we have all shared it's probably for the best that these two sides don't meet haha!) Immigration here is strangely, almost eerily non existent, so for all those people who this its this big gauntlet run, its surprisingly not, in fact you arrive in this massive air conditioned, carpeted building filled with glass, breeze through immigration throw your bags on a trolley and out you walk (yes all you kiwi's - no quarantine) so that basically means that unless we caught them on an off day, none of the whole having to declare mobile phones, or cameras to be heard of, and no FEC's needed to be exchanged!!! We organised a taxi for 6USD to get us to a hotel via the train station (and evidently via a currency exchange place) which was a pretty dang good price.

Now these taxis, well they are a character in their own right...remember that car you has as a teenager in the mid 70's that you thought was on its last legs? Well, good news is that its alive and well as a taxi in Myanmar, and you probably got duped for the price you sold it for, as taxi drivers here have to pay an eye-watering 20,000USD to buy one of these cars that start by half the vehicles occupants standing behind it and pushing in order to kick start the motor (once it starts tho, your usually good for around 5-6 sets of traffic lights, so pretty good value). So to start with we headed to a local place to get some kyat (pronounced chat) at a place that was cunningly disguised as a florist (the official rate is 4-1 USD, but black market is around 1000-1USD) this was great and all, except for the fact their largest note is 1000, and so for my 100USD I got a pile of 100, 1000 notes and made my money belt look like I had over indulged on Christmas day (which I hadnt grrr Lucky Burger).

Then we get to the train station and fortunately we happened to share this taxi with a tour guide who was heading home and he translated, got lost, translated again before finding out that if we wanted to book tickets in advance for the train we in fact couldn't book at the station but would need to head down the road to MTT (Myanmar Tours and Travel) the govt owned travel agent to book them, presenting our passports and all for the pleasure of buy a $16 ticket to this place in the middle of nowhere. Why here was chosen is basically because it wasn't a 14 hour train trip that arrived at 3am (a few years ago, the govt had to change the times of all the trains to go through a few specific areas before nightfall, because people 'getting lost' when going through insurgent territory just wasn't a great look the govt decided, and so most now arrive at 3am ish a their destination, except this one, which was only a 9 hour one, during the day, and arrived at 3pm.

For the moment we'll skip Yangon - watching Avatar in a Myanmar theatre complete with standing for the national anthem and being covered in sunflower seeds, and get down to Mawlmyine.

So to explain this train, a bit of history. When the British colonized this country, like any good Brit the first thing they did was install a 1m gauge railway line. For those like me who didn't know what this means is that the two tracks are 1m apart, very narrow, which means that the carriages prefer to wobble and snake their way along the line (its a 3m wide train so you can imagine the wobbling). Then throw a few carriages on, and you have the perfect circa 1901 train and for any worthy train enthusiast this is one to get as its pretty much the same train on the same line, almost 110 years later (insert deflated yay). One upside tho is that as tourists we are only able to buy the upper class seats ( a somewhat miserable attempt at business class) which meant we at least had seats that weren't wooden benches. Nonetheless we arrived 9 hours later, averaging around 20-30kph through most areas at the rather warm time of 330pm (it was around 34 degrees). Then phase two began which was finding accommodation in this city. 5 30 soon rolled around with the only places that had foreign rooms available (yes there are rules about which rooms foreigners can use) and the best offer we got was for a $10 dollar room in a place that lonely planet describes and windowless prison cells complete with grills. In fact this was smaller than many prison cells, as a twin room meant you could literally just walk in the door before standing on the two beds that were wedged to each other was your only option. Understandably, Breeze Guesthouse is not where we stayed.

Instead we managed to find another place with slightly better rooms for the same price (this was only after we went back to Breeze after walking for 2 hours in the heat with our packs on, ready to give in, only to be told they had now sold out) and then spent the night listening to a pretty much endless parade going through the streets, that no one was actually sure what it was for, but it was annoying as it meant we couldn't cross the street and get to the internet cafe.... We did manage to find dinner eventually at a rather scary place with what I'm pretty sure was dog meat (yum....not) and all in all brought us today with a nice cold shower and a similar parade starting nice and early at 7am (don't think they have invented roosters yet to wake people up...or in fact to eat haha!)

Ah well....will update you all in Bali!

C :)

Posted by carl.adams 22:19 Archived in Myanmar Comments (0)

Illegal taxi's, police escorts and losing my passport..

So the story starts where it always does Phnom Penh, Cambodia, much to nobody's surprise. The past few weeks have been chaotic, but rewarding.

Here's some statistics for the mathematically inclined on our past month in Phnom Penh:

Motorbike: 600km per week on average
Evading capture by police: 3 times
Caught by police: 1 time
Batoned by police: 1 time
Offered illicit drugs: 27 times
Offered boom-boom rooms: lost count
Paying bribes: 2 times
Fatal accidents witnessed: 3

In all honesty, it sounds worse than it was, the police beating didn't particularly hurt (only one bruise that's still here 3 weeks later), and bribes never exceeded $1.25!

So we start the story, once again at the place we both love, NFC. For the past month this place has been like a second home to us and we've felt totally welcome and met some awesome people - kids and staff. Focusing in particular on the computer class we've helped to create a curriculum and an interactive teaching style, something that has been both challenging and rewarding. The concept of interactive is near non-existent in Cambodian schools, as is common sense. Rote-learning is the standard..and so is paying off teachers and cheating in exams. But after 3 weeks all the kids went from thinking the mouse is something you eat, to being able to explain indentment, alignment, tables...and even apply it constructively to their own projects! So that has been totally rewarding, and so has seeing the teacher come alive with enthusiasm and really encourage the kids - it makes all the difference.

We notice that a lot of volunteers love to visit, to have photos with the kids and play games. The kids are great at both, and they've had a lot of practice. So we decided to do something different. Scouring the markets and streets of Phnom Penh, we created a couple of technology challenges. Building a 2m bridge to support 500 grams of weight rolled over the bridge, made simply out of paper, tape and 2 meters of string. With some creative thought and application, along with a male-female face-off, the girls won with a bridge that could support my weight (and no I haven't become "Asian size"). Another, dropping an egg from 5 meters in the air, supported by a basic contraption of their invention so the egg doesn't break, worked well - with 3 safe eggs used for the next meal, and the broken one fed to the dogs, or some kid outside?!

A movie night with baguettes filled with condensed milk (a Cambodian treat), and Cambodian jokes that get completely lost in translation have been awesome.
We have purchased and installed 5 new computers, doubling the size of the computer lab, and covered the rent of the organisation for a month (3 buildings, on 2700sqm). We've made some cool friends, who of course have facebook and gmail too. But NFC really does give the kids a real future. The kids all have aspirations of their own, and families to support back home - their motivation and resolve is huge and I'm sure they will be participants in transforming Cambodia for the better.

Twas an emotional break-up, sort of like a funeral, but not. And it felt like my birthday with awesome gifts the kids had made. I'm sure I will return, as persists my obsession with Cambodia (surprise, surprise)

So, the rest of Cambodia was interesting, and in Cambodia there's never a dull moment. Chris left to Thailand on the 22nd, and I stayed on until the 27th, which involved getting a visa extension and bribing by way to the front of the 2hr visa queue, and then getting caught by cops on the way home "No license Kampuchea", so after being asked how much I wanted to pay ($1) and being told it was less than what he and the other 10 cops wanted me to pay ($5, or .50c each), me pulling out my cellphone and him settling for 5000reils ($1.25), and I could proceeds once again without my Kampuchea license, to the Myanmar embassy to collect my passport. On arrival there was a "noh possibow", and 'passport gone'..."Good to know", "Can you find it please". To most government workers at 5pm on a Friday afternoon this would be slightly annoying, but they get "overtime", so all was good. Two hours passed which involved me having to salute the Myanmar Ambassador to Cambodia, whilst waiting for the fat visa lady to come back from what quite probably was the longest lunch ever, I got my passport back, visa and all. With a moto-ride with an off-duty policeman back to the apartment.

The 27th rolled around with a 6am, and 12 hour bus-ride from Phnom Penh to Bangkok which involved crossing at the infamous Poipet border (Poipet town is also a hole, and is a Khmer Rouge hideout, for those who haven't heard of Khmer Rouge, google 'Genocide') , me using offensive Khmer words to persistent touts, all the while fire was exchanged between Thai and Cambodian troops 100km north at Preah Vihear temple on the border. An illegal taxi in Bangkok who didn't have a clue how to drive, have any directional sense, speak a word of english...oh I lie, he did speak english, throwing in "falang" (foreigner), and "Son of a b..." in the same sentence, before finally discovering heaven (it's called All Seasons Hotel Huamark), and finding Chris, after paying a shouting taxi driver lass than he wanted.

So I guess you can tell, I am more or less obsessed about Cambodia, so prepare yourself for my return, and buy some airplugs - I'm back on the 4th!
The Union of Myanmar, should be interesting, tune in to hear the latest!


Posted by carl.adams 22:15 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Hamiltron - City of the future since 1896

As you can probably guess from a rather unrelated title (it's just something I pondered as we hurtled towards NFC this morning at 70kph - thats 3x time speed limit for those of you with multiplication and division charts) I'm rather tired to be thinking up witty titles, so your stuck with leftovers from today. In order to stave off the people attempting to claim my life insurance at the moment, I guess that now would be a good time to write another installment into the old blog. Ill even try to refrain to boring you all to sleep. So tonight's feature presentation revolves around a little area called Boeung Kak Lake, which youve heard me mention around these parts quite a bit, but as it is now a regular part of our days travels and adventures, I figure we can let you in on a few secrets.

Firstly, if you do by chance happen to do drugs (kids dont do it - they make you spontaneously combust during the night, and not only that but you will have Jim Hickey, John Campbell, and half the cast of Shortland Street stalking you for the rest of your life) then BK (note the abbreviation - its Boeung Kak, for those, like the person who is sitting next to me, haven't quite got to joining the dots yet), is inevitably your homeland. In fact im pretty sure that there hasn't actually been a time after 6pm that we have walked around the area that we havent been offered your favourite variation of ice, weed, or cocaine, and for those adventurous types a happy mix of all three. Now mix that in with the tuk-tuk drivers who now no longer offer Genocide Museums and Killing Fields but will more than happily, in fact they really do insist on taking you out to a local boom boom house (For those born in the 90's the song "Boom boom boom boom, I want you in my room, We'll spend the night together, for now and then forever" - your pretty much spot on with the concept). And in fact for anyone from World Vision here, you may wish to avert your eyes but underage boom boom houses are also widely advertised - and who in their cocaine-infused mind would disagree with the tuk-tuk drivers determined to make a buck!

We also now have a local Indian place there who pretty much treat us like deities and for around $3 each you can pretty much eat till you explode (though i dont really reccomend that option - instad go for the masala. v v v good). And around this area we also have many, many so called travel agents. Now these people, well, im not entirely too sure what they do. If you by chance happen to want to fly to Bangkok from here you would go and see these people who would be sitting at a desk in their office with some pad and a cellphone, they'll write down your request and then give someone a call who has internet access who will then call back in 10 minutes when they find something (to save on cellphone credit) who will then give the information, your newest travel agent friend (who by now is trying to convince you to book another flight back home with another airline because "oowee your airline very bad") will then relay the information and call back to say your interested and will then try and organise a mutually benificial price that is likely to be around 150% of what you could easily buy on the internet.

Needless to say we are finding alternate means to Bangkok, regardless of what roads we have to travel on and which countries may or may not be fighting at the border (for those who have requested some shrapnel from the Thai/Khmer conflict going on at the moment, ill do my best, but travel insurance will only cover me so far (not that thats stopped me before hahahahaha).

But in all honesty the lake area is very small, and in fact is becoming increasingly small - as I think I have mentioned to you all before they are filling in the lake now with sand and other bits and pieces they can find. For anyone who has taken geography and learnt that you just really shouldn't be going and taking megatons of sand from beaches and river inlets, they could do with your help up here telling them that but i'm sure they'll work that out in 20 years when Sihanoukville disappears (6th form Geo teacher would be so proud of me right now). This has basically meant that there is a slow movement of guesthouses transferring to the riverfront (tho there are still around 20 guesthouses by the lake) more recently but with any luck they'll make something of the area thats going to be filled in and bring the tourists back to the area (at the moment its a sort of seedy backpacker paradise).

Now there are a few other 'in brief' points that you may mind interesting but we just seem to find fairly run of the mill nowadays (not even joking here!). Elephants. Turns out they are as much of a tourist drawcard here as in the rest of Asia, but without those pesky animal rights people who will stop you from doing things like taking elephants into restaurants and for strolls down the main streets of the city. Often you'll find the pair of them meandering around Wat Phnom with a pair of 50+ XXL sized guys (who im sure if you asked would say they are ahem "life partners" to be PC) giggling like school girls about how they're on an elephant taking photo's of themselves throwing their weight around poor ele (I've become rather attached to elephants as you can tell, and as soon as Uncle Key says I can have one as a pet back home, theyll be on the next plane).

And to finish off with a few more brief notes from NFC (for those who havent kept up, this is the orphanage), the kids are coming along amazingly well and some of them have just sat their first computer studies exam (that admittedly was written rather hastily but oh well) and have made massive leaps and bounds, and the teacher who we are training as well is making even bigger steps forward and quite probably doing better than many of our own teachers back in NZ, so we'll see how he goes as we take the reigns off over the next couple of weeks. Also the library is coming along well, unfortunately with the classes and everything we havent been able to give as much time as we would have liked to it, but there are another couple of volunteers who are helping out (and are pretty much going for gold on it) and thats coming along really well (now we have found some decent wood to use as shelves). But thats it from the NFC front, oh and we are doing a few BP Technology challenges with them tomorrow (kids you'll remember these) and were actually not sure who is more excited, us or them!

Thats all folks!

Oooh except for the fact I am now in posession of a Myanmar visa...aint I fancy eh?

Posted by carl.adams 08:32 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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