A Travellerspoint blog

Hanoi to Vientiane to Vang Vieng to Luang Prabang

Travelling through Laos

sunny 30 °C

Hanoi to Vientiane Laos


Walking to Lao Border

Walking to Lao Border

When we left Vietnam we were inspected by about 20 vietnamese military, some of whom showed grumpy tactics, like making me empty my pack out on the road, before myself and everyone else nearby were allowed to walk out of Vietnam, the Lao customs & border control were much nicer to deal with! The bus trip from Hanoi & Vientiane was pretty cool, it may have taken 20 hrs but it also had quite a few stops and as I have been travelling for about 5 days & I was looking forward to a couple of chilled days in Vientiane.

Vientiane Main Street

Vientiane Main Street


Vientiane Back Street

Vientiane Back Street

Im usually prepared to search fo an hour, deciding where to stay, saw one with cool boganvillia garden but was booked out, I ended up in a more conventional Vientiane travellers hotel, just a stone's throw from the Mighty Mekong and full of hallway cameras, too many! Hired a bike every day so I could pedal around the flat streets of Vientiane where there seems to be a temple or stupor on every second corner, the weather was humid, due to the nightly heavy rains & sunny cloudy days. I spent one night with a couple of friends I had met on the bus, playing pool and drinking in the Red Mekong, which is far less of a stone's throw to the Mekong, than from my hotel.

Vang Vieng

Vang Vieng Hotel View

Vang Vieng Hotel View

After an easy 5 hr mini bus trip from Vientiane I arrived in Vang Vieng mid afternoon and managed to find a nice homely hotel overlooking a river. The room had a balcony, a large clean bed and wifi everywhere. From my balcony I could see a bridge to a small stoney river island where there were simple wooden canopy structures and decided to check it out. The town is a young peoples party town, restaurant diners lie around, there are no chairs, eating great food, drinking beers and juices while looking across the river to a ridge of hills in mist or in in other restuarants hunkering down in front of the TV to watch reruns of Friends or Mash.

So I get to the bridge in fact had to walk down about 30 concrete steps to reach a modern wooden construction. Not the first bridge to be built here and probably not the last. As I cross the bridge I cant help noticing a caucasin, lying comotose on the muddy river bank in an inflated tyre, while his girlfriend tried to bring him round by pulling at him, none of which was doing much good.

Local Boats  Luang Prabang

Local Boats Luang Prabang

When I got down off the bridge and near the drunken sailor, I sensed he might be an be an Australian or a Kiwi by what he had moaned while throwing up. He needed a kick up the jacksy, so I said to him that “..... I have better things to do with my time than hang round looking after a drunk.....”. This utterance seemed to strike a cord with him which made him stagger out of his tyre & his stupour and eventually disappear up the steps leading to the road & restaurants, with his head in his hands and the girl no where to be seen.

I stood on the bridge again and watched many more people float past in groups merrily chatting & also yelling at other groups tubing the river.I ate a great spagetti bolognese at a restaurant on my way back to my hotel.

Had quiet beer which was followed by flash downpour which caused a the local power to go out around 9pm that night and it never came back till 11am the next day. The rains continued on an off during the night .No generators.

Tubing the River

Woke up to suprized by fine weather but the power was still off, so went for breakfast at a nearby restaurant, where the food is good, and then sauntered across the road to buy a ticket to tube the river that afternoon. I was interested to find out how all these tubers ended up merry and toasted. So I got my number written on my arm, a large tube thrust into my hands, and then transported 5 km up the river in a cramped tuktuk with tyres tied on the top. When you get out of the tuktuk, you are blasted with waves of loud music and peoples shrieks and cheers, there is a party going on. We are transported across the swollen river in a small multihull boat to an open air bar where about 150 people are drinking, dancing, playing drinking games, swinging off a rope, chatting and laughing, getting ready to tube the river.

Tuber (1)

Tuber (1)


Tuber (2)

Tuber (2)

The houch they are giving away , I am guessing, with an alcohol content of around 15% to 20%. It was basically undrinkable,but that didnt stop most of them. Within a km of this bar there looks like another 4 or 5 bars downstream, I have a beer and decided to do some tubing.
I grab a tube and launch myself into the river, sitting in the the tyre and using my arms as oars I quickly reached the centre of the river, a rope attached plastic missile (Coke 1.5 lt ) falls near by, I reach out and grab it & I get dragged into the next bar. In about 200m I have already been to two bars this one is like the one before more dancing, more music, more drinking games.

I have spied about a kilo down the river a large slide that looks like it could like fun, so I start tubing down the river towards it. Along the way other bars fire missiles but I leave them alone letting them float by, until I catch one that drags me into the bar with the large slide.Its large enough to sling me about 5 m in the air with a chance it might end in a face plant. I got better with practice.

From here there are few bars it is about 2-3 kms drift down the river back to Vang Vieng and then return my tube to the collection centre in town, in order to have the tyre deposit refunded. Tomorrow off to Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

This trip should usually take 6 hrs but took almost twice that because of a large slip that had to be cleared before we could get through, 5 large diggers were working in unison to make it happen. After that there were a couple of high mountain passes that put most of us to sleep. then its levelled out for a 2 hrs drive into Luang Prabang.

Slip

Slip

Most of the small hotels & restaurants are found a narrow 2 km long ismus surrounded on one side by the Mekong and on the end & one side by the Nam Khan, a tributary to the Mekong at the far end and other side by. I have enjoyed the central location of my hotel, it is well run by a couple of young guys, who took me to one of the night markets, which are well worth a visit, clothes, jewellery, leather goods, textiles & local stuff. I hired push bikes quite abit, and the town is fairly flat & there are some great river views to be had.

Luang Prabang Hotel

Luang Prabang Hotel

On the last day I decided to take a trip on the ever present Mekong, the large brown river flowing briskly past Luang Prabang. Boat trips cost 100,000 kip ($12US) but seeing there was only me, I decided to take the cheaper option of a motorised canoe. I started to have migivings when I saw how small it was, this smallness was mirrored by the size of its motor, which was noisey and almost totally powerless.

Canoe on the Mekong

Canoe on the Mekong


Luang Prabang Restuarant

Luang Prabang Restuarant

As we venture out across the Mekong, I quickly realised the precarious balance of the canoe and the fact we didnt have enough speed to keep up with the current and when in the middle river, it is a a good 300 m long swim to shore, there are no life vests, I start to concentrate on a successful crossing. Then the clouds were burned off and we realise that we only have one umbrella, its as hot as hell, not breath of wind, I am dying, just after we went enter the Nam Khan, the tributary to the Mekong, the canoe makes a shudder and then a clunk. I grab the umbrella he leans over the back of the canoe then says the propellor has come off. I am just glad we are not out on the Mekong. He has a spare propellor which he ties on, Im hot , we have run out of propellors, it was time to be dropped off.

I fly to Chiang Mai, Thailand tomorrow.

Posted by Chris Sig 13:55 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking mekong tubing Comments (0)

Hanoi to Halong Bay & Return plus Hanoi to Sapa Return

From the Sea to the Mountains

overcast 32 °C

Hi Guys

Hanoi to Ha Long Bay & Return

Boat Like Ours

Boat Like Ours


The Cut

The Cut


Having enjoyed all the boat trips thus far, I was looking forward to another one, especially one that included an overnight stay. The bus trip to the coast took almost 3 hours and Kenny who was to be our guide on the boat, was on the bus. He got us stowed away on our boat by using a little red flag attached to a stick.

Our boat could sleep sixteen, 8 twin-single rooms. I was paired up with youngish Arat, a teacher of young children in Basque. So was he a Basque or was he a Spaniard, he was a Basque and I think he was using the trip as a bit of a rest up, before he resumed, cycling around different parts of Vietnam.
Halong Bay Tilt

Halong Bay Tilt

There are over 700 tourist boats in Ha Long Bay, so the chances of finding a secluded bay are slim but not impossible. We left the jetty and quietly motored for an hour before we reached the islands and our first mooring. We stepped off the boat and onto some moored pontoons to get in tandem canoes, so we could all do, a bit of individual exploration. I teamed up with Zlatina, a vivacious Bulgarian, studying for her degree in Japanese language at a university in Tokyo. She definitely had the idea “that life was for living” Everyone got in their boats and disappeared in different directions, learning how to paddle as they went.

Heading for the Cave

Heading for the Cave


L to R George,Neil,Thai,Zlatina,Kenny,Salou,Paddy,Peter & Sonder

L to R George,Neil,Thai,Zlatina,Kenny,Salou,Paddy,Peter & Sonder


L to R - Young English Couple, Arthur, Sonder,Kenny & Arat

L to R - Young English Couple, Arthur, Sonder,Kenny & Arat

After the canoeing, all but one canoe was accounted for, it contained Liu a pretty, petite chinese lady who is studying alongside Zlatina and a rather quiet, tall Chinese guy named Libo, who had silent resolve about him. So with the confidence that the lost crew would eventually turn up we boarded our boat, and motored over to the jetty and up the steps the “Amazing Cave” some 100 metres above. The cave was quite impressive, large and cavernous but it was lit up like Disneyland, so it was hard to get a handle on, what it really looked like. Kenny, our guide, spent the first part of the tour, waving his lazer pointer around while describing in halting English, the caves features, and at the same time, talking on his cellphone in rapid Vietnamese, obviously checking on the progress of the missing canoe. Eventually they returned. Kenny was then able to put away his cellphone and concentrate on his lazer beam and his very subtle jokes, many of which went right over my head.

Cave_Formations.jpg

Some of the best fun I had on the boat came next, it involved 2 ½ hours of swimming, diving and jumping off the boat.The water was warm and everyone joined in. The diving and sommersaulting got more extreme, with varying results. Arat scored a 10, with a one & half & then landing squarely on his back. Sensational! Liu, who initially had trouble jumping off the back of the boat ended up jumping from the top as well. The Irish lads, Paddy, almost a Doctor and his mate Neil, who looked like a rugby prop but was in fact a centre, made me laugh when he said one of things he enjoyed the most about the game of rugby was the tackling. When I played I used to leave a lot of that to the forwards, defending was something you did but scoring a try was what really what stoked me up. Rugby is a great contact sport and it often is good tackling that wins games.

Two young Dutch guys Sonder and Arthur perfected their forward and backward sommersaulting techniques, with a few mishaps along the way, the odd face plant or back smack, but none of it putting them off. George the German theoretical physicist also put his theory into action. Zlatina was also in her element.
Halong Bay Pan

Halong Bay Pan

After dinner was served we all went up to the top deck to have a few drinks and swap stories.
Peter a college teacher, the third Irish guy mentioned that Neil was a magnet for the “ local girls” and so it turned out the next day when our bus conductor dressed in bright yellow sweatshirt, white trousers and soft sneakers couldn't keep his hands off him.

In the tide the various moored boats approached and then would slowly retreat from each other. One was lit up like a Christmas tree, which looked garish given our surroundings, while another pumped out high volume dance music,complete with strobe lights. Luckily, the dance boat peaked early and was soon silent and when the Christmas Tree turned off it's lights, it left just us and another one or two boats still awake. Someone got an Ipod out and picked a playlist of mellow songs, to which we all lay round drinking and chatting till well after midnight.

The next day most stayed on while myself and the Irish boys headed back to Hanoi

Hanoi to Sapa & Return

After arriving back in Hanoi, I had just enough time to shower and change beforeI boarded the overnight sleeper train to Sapa. It's about a 10 hr trip and I slept all the way.The train drops you off in Lao Cai, just before the Chinese border and then it is about a 35 km trip up the mountain to Sapa.
Mimosa Sapa Pan

Mimosa Sapa Pan


Hmung Village

Hmung Village


Sapa Chicken Salad

Sapa Chicken Salad

I ended up at the Mimosa Hotel, with a great view of one of the valleys. It was run by Viet Hoai, who seemed to wear only dark blue, including the traditional brimmed cap. It was a fine day and so hired a motorbike off him, it was a new 125 cc Yamaha. The mountain roads are just made for bikes, and rather than sight seeing, I just got into the Zen of riding the bike. Intially I was coming into the corners too high but got that sorted, breaking hard at times and in the large expansive corners, laying it over a bit. You just have to be a bit careful, as around the next corner maybe a herd of water buffalo.
Hmung Women (2)

Hmung Women (2)


Hmung Women (1)

Hmung Women (1)

I did manage to do some off-roading when I went to see the villages of the local Hmung and Zay hillside tribes who also are always dressed in blue, grow rice on neatly terraced slopes and supplement this with selling their handicrafts in the town.

Vendors Eat After Market Closes

Vendors Eat After Market Closes

Next day I climbed around the various vantage points overlooking the town, hanging out in the square, talking to a few of the locals before hopping on the night train back to Hanoi
,

Posted by Chris Sig 00:17 Archived in Vietnam Tagged landscapes beaches boats water drivers Comments (0)

Hoi An to Hue to Hanoi

Dust Up in Hanoi

sunny 38 °C

Hi Guys

The trip to Hue took about 5 hrs and by early afternoon I was happily settled into my hotel room on 4th floor, with a good view of the city. I ventured out onto the street and hired a bicycle to check out the local area and get my bearings for future forays except when I returned to where I thought my hotel was, it had vanished. So cycling ever decreasing circles I eventually I found it. The temperature outside was around 37 or 28 degrees so I retired back to the AC of my hotel room to watch a replay of a good game of football between Man U and Man City.

Imperial Palace, Hue (1)

Imperial Palace, Hue (1)


Imperial Palace, Hue (2)

Imperial Palace, Hue (2)

The next morning I grabbed the bike and went to visit the Imperial Palace. It had seen better days, due mainly to the fact that it was extensively bombed by the Americans during the Vietnam War. After I did the usual the midday check out of my room, I intended to cycle 7 kms out of town to see the Tomb of Tu Duc, the guide book describes it as a “majestic site, laced with fragapani and pine trees set alongside a small lake”. It was also a haven for the emperor's concubines.

But the thought of travelling that far ona bike, in the heat, seemed just plain maddess even by my standards so I opted for Plan B, cycle around the corner to a recommended vegetarian retaurant, have two great salads and a cold beer. Which made me feel, just lovely and then cycle to another part of town and repeat the proccess, this time I starting with a apple pancake and chocolate sauce and then a slice of gouda, the size of my small finger, and a baguet, plus another two cold beers. A very enjoyable afternoons work.

Hue Salad

Hue Salad

But on reflection I could have missed the stop over in Hue. So it was on the bus for the overnight to Hanoi. When I step off the bus the rain is teeming down, I am totally shagged as usual, and look for a metered taxi to take me to my hotel, which is in the old quarter of Hanoi. I ask my taxi driver all the usual questions, does the meter work? does he know where to go? Its a trip that should cost about 90,000 Dong. He hits the meter an puts 12,000 Dong as the initial standard charge and set off down the motorway, we are getting close to my destination, maybe a couple of kms away when I look at the meter and it's reading about 130,000 Dong and then instantaneously jumps to around 142,000Dong. He had been jigging the meter somehow. So this is when the discussions started!

Hanoi Street

Hanoi Street


Downpour in Hanoi

Downpour in Hanoi

I first measured response was that “ he was nothing but a cheating prick and to pull over so we could sort out our differences. After pulling over he holds out his hand and says I owe him 200,000Dong, I'm thinking, where in the fuck did that figure come from. Is he really trying to press my buttons? Not only has he cheated me but to add to the insult he is going to try and intimidate me into paying even more. Momentarily I think grabbing from behind and choking him to death, might be the easy option, but thankfully reason prevailed and I yelled and shouted at him instead. I used short descriptive one liners to let him know what I thought about him. So thoughtful, that I am going to leave them off this page. This helped bring the discussions forward as he understood ever single word.

Hoam Kiem Lake, Hanoi

Hoam Kiem Lake, Hanoi


Uncle Ho's Mausoleum

Uncle Ho's Mausoleum


Morning Exercise Hanoi

Morning Exercise Hanoi

As I am being ejected from his taxi I make sure to grab both pieces of my luggage. He trys a little intimidation tactic of his own, by taking a photograph of me on his cellphone. Dream on pal! What shall I do next? Do I scarpa? Do I pay? Eventally we agree on 120,000 Dong but I only have a 200,000Dong note and he needs to give me change. So he is sitting in the car and me on the side of the motorway, with money in our hands. He says you first, I say no him first. The love has gone, there is absolutely no trust in this transaction. He eventually relents and hands over the change and I respond with mine. He vanishes down the motorway never to be seen again. Welcome to Hanoi!

Water Puppet Theatre

Water Puppet Theatre

I used Hanoi mainly as a stepping stone to other places another two places, Halong Bay and then Sapa but while I here I toured around a little and went to the Vietnamese Water Puppets Theatre, which was entertaining without being amazing.

Posted by Chris Sig 23:33 Archived in Vietnam Tagged water taxi drivers puppets Comments (0)

Nha Trang to Hoi An

Hoi An - A Town of Tailors and Cobblers

37 °C

Hi Guys


Village Estuary (1)

Village Estuary (1)


Restuarant District Hoi An

Restuarant District Hoi An


Hoi An is an unexpected suprize, it is a small town with a very charming old quarter, that has narrow streets and alley ways. There are lots of restaurants, down on the waterway and the streets have a very friendly vibe. I stayed in a small but busy backpacker hotel complete with swimming pool, which was brilliant given the temperatures were up around the 36 -37 C.

This is a town where people go shopping or more exactly, people get things tailored.
While chilling out in the pool, I met Henry a young man from London, who had all sorts of tailored items being made for him, including a couple of suits. This made me think I should also dip my dip my foot in the water and get a suit made as well. It was a spur of the moment decision, I dried myself off and I went down to see my tailor, Henry's one.
Tailor Shop

Tailor Shop


Within a few minutes she had my vital statistics and a shirt was being made to order.
The rest of the choices for my suit, I decided to leave till the following morning, when the light was better and I was sober. I didn't want to choose fabrics and colours slightly pie-eyed, just in case finished up with a suit, that only Elton John would be proud of.
So next morning when I visited her again, I made all the choices, the fabric – wool/cashmere, the colour - charcoal blue with a faint narrow pinstripe, the pockets, the lining etc.etc. and was told my next fitting would be that evening. They do things fast over here!

So for the rest of the day I hired a motorbike so I could ride to DaNang and visit a place called Marble Mountain, which was well worth the visit.
Da Nang Beach

Da Nang Beach


Marble Mountain (1)

Marble Mountain (1)


Marble Mountain (2)

Marble Mountain (2)


That evening with the second fitting out of the way I went out to dinner at a nearby restaurant where I met 78 year old Aussie Bob holding court in front of two attractive ladies from Ireland and a handsome young man from Barcelona. Bob started our meeting with the usual good natured verbals of what New Zealanders are good for, which I managed to duck or divert.

The girls turned out to be real good fun, Marion dark haired with a wicked sense of humour and Bronagh who was equally charming, with a more self affacing wit. Very soon we all knew more about each other, that in some cases, probably didn't need to know or had wanted to reveal. My revelation was that, the tropics and going commando, go hand in hand.

Aussie Bob turned out to be a good bloke and when he got up to leave us, so he could saunter off to another watering hole, he feigned, that he would be insulted, if he could not pay for the drinks. The girls protested heartly but in the end Bob got his way and disappeared into the night and the rest of us went to a street bar on the waterway.
Hoi An Beach Parties

Hoi An Beach Parties


Village Estuary (2)

Village Estuary (2)


It was here that Broagh revealed her deep love of pets and had all of us, including the more subdued Jose, in fits of laughter.

Both girls worked for the diplomatic corp in Madrid, so when Bronagh got her new posting to the Middle East, it immediately posed a problem, of what to do with Celtic, her pet hampster. He was no ordinary hampster, no he was extordinary.

First thing every morning he would leave his tunnel house under the sofa to greet his mistress. Standing his hind legs he would discuss, what was for breakfast and his schedule for that day and then off he would pop to work his way through it.

So how was Bronagh going to get Celtic back to Ireland to live her family?
Putting him in quarantine was not an option, that would be like sending him to prison, so Celtic came up with a cunning plan. He decided he would cocoon himself in small glass vial packed with a little cotton wool and attach it to his mistresses inner thigh. The plan worked seamlessly and Celtic was amazed how his mistress had got him through both border controls undetected. He realized he had seen sides of her that he never knew existed.

He gained Irish citizenship, and settled into living with Bronagh's family
But alais just as a a slight Irish lilt was starting to appear in his voice, tragedy struck. He working out on his jungle gym and lost his grip, slipped and strangled himself on the high bar. He was the victim of a freak accident. Celtic now has a little headstone at the bottom of the garden, that reminds everyone of what an amazing hampster he was.

I had a final fitting of the suit, liked its cut and it is now winging it's way back home as I write.

Off to Hue then Hanoi in the morning

Posted by Chris Sig 08:54 Archived in Vietnam Tagged animals beach shopping city backpacking tailors Comments (0)

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City to Mekong Delta to Nga Trang

From the Mekong Waterways to the Beaches of Nha Trang

overcast 33 °C

Hi Guys

The Flag

The Flag


The road from Phonm Penh to Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) is flat with rice paddy fields on either side, as far as the eye can see, that are dotted with small clusters of huts and houses that are partially hidden by the trees, that house the communities that work them.

On the bus seated next to me was a Cambodian woman, in her late thirties, who was handsome rather than beautiful. She said she was off to Vietnam to get a visa so she could work in Canada. As we neared the border at Bravit she seem preoccupied, I flew through border control, she took a little longer but when she eventually got back on the bus she looked relieved. Her bare arms and fingers were now adorned with bangles and rings and as she flicked through her passport I couldn't help noticing the numerous stamps of her previous crossings.. I said I was staying at a particular hotel in HCMC the first night and did she know it. She said that, by coincidence, she was staying there to, and sure enough, when we disembarcked the bus, she led me there.
Ho chi Minh City Pan

Ho chi Minh City Pan


HCMC Boulavard

HCMC Boulavard


Coincidences don't usually happen in Asia, a case in point was the other day when I was riding a motorcycle down the highway, a young lady rides up beside me and asks the usual questions, where are you from?, how long have you been here? and then compliments me on my riding style. She then suggests that there is a local attraction nearby that I may overlooked and that I should see it. As she is travelling there herself, I should follow her there. It always turns out that they have business connections with the attraction. They wait on the side of the road waiting for a tourist to pass by, and then they catch you up and woo you to their attraction. That time I was glad I went with her.

So with this in mind, booking into the hotel with Cambodian bus mate seemed like a scam, added to the fact that she knew reception rather well, only made me more leary of the situation. In the end I ended up changing hotels just in case I was her mark.

With this backdrop in my mind and the constant buzz of motorcycles in the street, I decided to get out of town for the day by booking a trip that was going down to the Mekong Delta. The tour headed for Bei Tre, the stepping stone to other islands that make up the delta. In all they cover an area of over 39,000 sq kms, and grow more rice than Korea and Japan combined.
Delta Waterways (2)

Delta Waterways (2)


Delta Waterways (1)

Delta Waterways (1)


Delta Waterways (3)

Delta Waterways (3)


The outing was led by a Vietnamese guy named Duk, who's laconic sense of humour mixed with questions like “Can we do this?” led to a great time, where we hopped on and off different boats and canoes all day, so that we could try medicinal tonics, the local honey, sweets and food and a bit of local music as well. I finished the day by spending an extra $15 to take a 2 hr speed boat up the Mekong to HCMC rather than bus. We sped past all the barges and boats that make their living off the waterand like your average “Mutt” I hung outside the boat so I could enjoy the refreshing wind rip past me.

From here I caught a night bus to Nha Trang, for two days of beach life. The second day I went out snorkling , the coral wasn't fantastic but just lolling around in the ocean was, and at the end of all the swimming and duck diving, the seats on the boat were folded down to make a large table on which a luscious late lunch was served. I met a nice German lady called Nicole on the boat.
Nha Trang Beach

Nha Trang Beach


The hotel in Nha Trang were set in a little cul de sac near the beach with a cluster of other hotels. The staff were great, as was the determination of a local lady who kept on popping up wanting to give me a “massage”.

This part of the trip has been very enjoyable.

Posted by Chris Sig 03:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged landscapes beaches boats fields river city transport mekong chi ho minh nha trang scams Comments (0)

Bangkok to Seim Reap to Phnom Penh

From The Best to the Worst of it

overcast 33 °C

Hi Guys


Angkor Wat Gateway

Angkor Wat Gateway


Preah Khan Entrance

Preah Khan Entrance


Angkor Thom Heads

Angkor Thom Heads


Tree Pan1

Tree Pan1

In less than 3 days I went from seeing the jewel in Cambodia's crown to the ugly thorn in it's side.
About 15 kms from Siem Reap is the truly majestic ruins of Angkor Wat, built of sandstone in the 12th century and has remained a Buddhist religious centre ever since. The scale of temples is breath taking, the moat surrounding Angkor Wat is 190 metres wide and forms a rectangle 1.5 kms by 1.3 kms & this is just one of the many water reservoirs that dot the temples. All up the temples cover an area of over 9 square kilometres & at its peak it had a population of over a million people. There are sculptures, steps & corridors everywhere, the size of it is jaw dropping.
Country Dwellings

Country Dwellings


Cambodian Woman (1)

Cambodian Woman (1)


Water Village Pan

Water Village Pan


Then 2 days later in inner city Phnom Penh I visited the Tuol Sleng Museum, known colloqially as S-21. This is where a school was converted, by Pol Pot and his genocidal revolutionaries, into a detention, interogation and torture centre The Kymer Rouge led by Pol Pot came into power in 1975, around the same time the Americans were fleeing South Vietnam.

S-21

S-21


Prisoner's View

Prisoner's View


Rare S-21 Survivor

Rare S-21 Survivor

At S-21 between 1975 & 1978 over 21,000 people where tortured into confession and then where transported around 15 kms out of town to to place known now as the Killing Fields. The killing squads, played loud music from loudspeakers hung in trees, so the nearby community could not hear the screams of the victims being bludgeoned to death, with tools that you would find in most garden sheds.
Victims

Victims

In the end, it was an invasion in 1978 by the new Socialist government of Vietnam that removed Pol Pot from power. Under his dictatorship, over million and a half Cambodians lost there lives,
through murder, torture, starvation and forced labour. Pol Pot never went on trial and died of natural causes in 1998.
After visiting these two sites in Phnom Penh, ones jaw also drops.

Posted by Chris Sig 10:22 Archived in Cambodia Tagged buildings fields angkor wat killing reap siem pot phnom penh pol Comments (0)

Bangkok

Four Nights in Bangkok

overcast 32 °C

Hi Guys

I arrived in Bangkok after an all nighter on double decker bus from Phuket, which left me absolutely shagged. As we headed into town I had Andrew Lloyd Webber's song “One Night in Bangkok” playing silently in my head. I headed straight for the backpacker district of Bamplamphu, and wound up staying at the Rambuttri Inn, which has all the usual hotel amenities including a pool on the roof. After a couple of nights there I ended up moving to the Merry V Guesthouse just around the corner, it was half the price, with twice the view. From the fourth floor, my room had a panoramic view of the city, it had less facilities but was twice as funky.

Merry V Pan

Merry V Pan


King's Palace

King's Palace

The first day I fell for the oldest scam in the book. I was walking down the road, on the way to the King's Palace when I meet my new “best friend”, who advises me, that while the palace is open, did I realize that today today was the monthly govt tax free day for certain manufacturing industries. This was the day when everything is almost half price and to encourage this,tax free day, the govt tuktuk will only cost a dollar for the whole day of touring. So in between visiting the sights of Bangkok, the govt would like to show me some of its local business talent.
Morning Read

Morning Read


Message Lanterns

Message Lanterns

Buddhas

Buddhas

So I gave the Kings Palace the “spanish elbow” & hopped in my tuktuk and left to see the “Standing Buddha” which was followed by the “Lucky Buddha” my driver Tompak then suggests we should visit an establishment that makes suits nearby. I enter the “Top Ten Tailors” eager to have a look around but I was hit by a sales pitch, that was silky smooth, it started with the quality of their suits, followed by the urgency needed in the purchase as cheapness is only one day a month and finally closing with the satisfaction of having something made especially for you. If I had caved in, it would have been the most expensive tuktuk ride I have ever taken, but by this time I knew the scam and decided to see as much of Bangkok as I could, in between rushing in and out of various businesses who were trying to sell me jewellery & more suits. After a while the hard sell gets to you and got dropped back at my hotel. I was glad to see the last of Topak and if there was any upside it only cost a dollar.

Temple Grounds

Temple Grounds

On the bus to Cambodia, a few days latter, people were joking about the “tax free day” and saying everyone falls for it, at sometime, I just couldn't bring myself to admit that it had happened to me just a couple of days ago, my street creds had taken such a hit.

The Ferries

The Ferries

The next day I took my first river boat ride, which was almost an epifany moment. I was by the river jetty, a boat docked and even though I had no idea of where it was going I could not resist jumping board, my theory being, if they are going down the river, there must other others coming back. It only takes a couple of minutes for the boats to dock, let off a dozen passengers, pick up new ones, and then leave forthe next jetty. Any trip costs just 14 Baht for the “Express Boat ”or 25 Baht for “Tourist” one, which has a guide on board..

Then you link the get off point of the boat with the “skytrain” and you can travel to the middle of town, and to many of its outer reaches. Tuktuks and taxis can take you the final part of journey. The whole process is cheap & reasonably fast especially when compared to the gridlock that you may encounter on the roads at peak times

In four days I ate some great food, had couple of restorative massages, went down streets where the carnival goes all night, met people from all around the world, chilled in quiet parks and realized that I will enjoy coming back.

Off to Siem Reap, Cambodia

Regards
Chris Sig

Posted by Chris Sig 03:47 Archived in Thailand Tagged boats river bangkok transport skytrain scams banglamphu Comments (0)

Georgetown to Krabi to Phuket

Beach Experiences

semi-overcast 32 °C

Hi Guys

Ao Nong Beach Pan

Ao Nong Beach Pan

Ao Nong Beach Road

Ao Nong Beach Road

There are an awful lot of rubber trees between Penang and Krabi. The bus trip takes about 5 hours, on a smooth inland highway, interrupted around the halfway with the border crossing into Thailand. The young dude who drove the mini bus wore aviator sunlasses, had a bit of a swagger and flew the bus like we were in some combat zone.

Thai Cashew Salad

Thai Cashew Salad

At Hat Yai we all had to change buses. Like preschoolers we all got to wear fluro stickers to show them, where they had to drop us off. I was dropped off at Krabi and made the 20 km journey to Ao Nang beach by tuktuk. A couple on the trip were a young Russian from NY and his petite & pretty Toronto girlfriend. I asked him how long he had lived in NY, he said “8 years” and followed that up, with a throw away line, “ I have lived there almost half my life”. I replied, that must make him about 16. He kind of went off me after that. I also found out that Toronto is not called Toronto anymore, it is called T-dot.

When I got to Ao Nang beach I was pleasantly suprized by its beauty and within half an hour of arrival was in a clean spacious room over looking the beach. That night a ventured down to the street stalls and ordered a Mussaman curry & rice, it cost 65 baht , around $2.20 NZ, and was the best one I have ever tasted. I went back the following night and the food was just as good.
A Brit from Birmingham was there with his wife and young child & said they were also regulars, he remarked that she was a fully trained “something” but cooked, because it was her passion.

The next day I took a long boat to the neighbouring bay of Rai Leh, the longboat is the traditional fishing boat, propelled by a car motor with a long propellor shaft attached. They can tilt it up for beach landings and drop it down in the open water. They can travel at quite a clip leaving large “ rooster tails” behind them as they cross the bay. A very enjoyable place to visit

Ao Nang to Rai Leh Beach

Ao Nang to Rai Leh Beach

Rah Leh Beach Pan

Rah Leh Beach Pan

Day Trippers

Day Trippers

I hadn't intended to go to Phuket, but at the last minute decided to go. You don't know unless you try, so I headed off for Patong Beach. It's one of those tourist towns, bars, souvenirs and the playing of that age old dance, older men looking for their youth & love while young girls who supply it, are in it for the money, probably to support their family. You see love lost “Chubby Joe” walking round the town with a beautiful girl on his arm, looking like he has just put the air in the football.Two days was more than enough in Phuket.

Patong Beach, Phuket

Patong Beach, Phuket

Patong Beach Road

Patong Beach Road

Had a great conversation with the manager of my hotel, about the complexities Thai politics, so complex that I don't want to confuse you.

From here its off to Bangkok
Regards
Chris Sig

Posted by Chris Sig 22:25 Archived in Thailand Tagged beach krabi phuket nong patong ao raileh Comments (0)

Singapore to Kuala Lumpur to Georgetown

Getting in the Travelling Groove

overcast 27 °C
View Singapore to KL to Georgetownn on Chris Sig's travel map.

Hi Guys

Fire HazeAfter a bit of a night out in Singapore, travelling by train from Changi Airport &#38; back you can't help but notice, the row upon row of high rise apartments, all similar in design, stacked neatly next  to each other, you just get a feeling it's all a bit to ordered , but having said that, your average Singaporean looked pretty chilled or maybe they were just tired. As a kiwi, too many people not enough space &#38;  I can also attest to the fact that there is no chewing gum on the footpaths.</p><p>From there I flew up to Kuala Lumpur and stayed at the Reggae Resthouse in Chinatown, which seem a funny name for backpackers joint in Malaysia, given the fact that having a joint is not an option, unless you are stupid, no, insane or Michelle Corby</p><p>I met a Canadian couple there, who were on a sabbatical, from teaching English in Shanghai,, and we got to talking about the different cuisine of Asian countries, which was puncuated  by one of them saying that there is a saying in China that says  “ The Chinese will eat anything on four legs as long as it isn't a table and anything with wings as long as it isn't a plane”

Fire HazeAfter a bit of a night out in Singapore, travelling by train from Changi Airport &#38; back you can't help but notice, the row upon row of high rise apartments, all similar in design, stacked neatly next to each other, you just get a feeling it's all a bit to ordered , but having said that, your average Singaporean looked pretty chilled or maybe they were just tired. As a kiwi, too many people not enough space &#38; I can also attest to the fact that there is no chewing gum on the footpaths.

From there I flew up to Kuala Lumpur and stayed at the Reggae Resthouse in Chinatown, which seem a funny name for backpackers joint in Malaysia, given the fact that having a joint is not an option, unless you are stupid, no, insane or Michelle Corby

I met a Canadian couple there, who were on a sabbatical, from teaching English in Shanghai,, and we got to talking about the different cuisine of Asian countries, which was puncuated by one of them saying that there is a saying in China that says “ The Chinese will eat anything on four legs as long as it isn't a table and anything with wings as long as it isn't a plane”

Love Lane Georgetown

Love Lane Georgetown

The Other Georgetown</p><p>Finally after a 7 hour train trip I am in Georgetown on Penang Island, staying in the World Heritage quarter, who's cultural heritage is represented by the Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Malays, Achehnese, Siamese, Burmese and Europeans. Have I left anyone out?

The Other Georgetown

Finally after a 7 hour train trip I am in Georgetown on Penang Island, staying in the World Heritage quarter, who's cultural heritage is represented by the Chinese, Indians, Arabs, Malays, Achehnese, Siamese, Burmese and Europeans. Have I left anyone out?

Life on the Sea

Life on the Sea

Georgetown Shutters

Georgetown Shutters

My travel rules are starting to firm up
Rule One : Never sleep in backpackers establishments that have rooms that look and are the size of prison cells.
Rule Two : Never stay in the same town more than 2 nights, unless I am in a prison cell

The street food here is snacking fantastic. Lunch was a spicy omelette, encased in a crusty pancake, then on the side were shallottes or onions in a clear sweet sauce and a small dish a mild curry. Very tasty.

I'm taking some crap photos, I need to up my game!

Regards

Posted by Chris Sig 19:35 Archived in Malaysia Tagged singapore malaysia Comments (0)

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