A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

Siem Reap and Phnom Penh

sunny 30 °C
View HT and Tez's Amazing Race on HT's travel map.

Hi again - sorry for the entries in quick succession...We have been busy! Now we are actually in Japan and trying to catch up!

We had a total of 5 days in Cambodia, primarily to see Angkor Wat. As soon as we arrived at Siem Reap airport, we knew we were at a tourist mecca...funded by US$ (the only currency you can withdraw at ATMs)...modern airport and fast efficient immigration meant we were ready for our first visit to Angkor Wat after a quick lunch.

As anyone who has been here would know, the Angkor temples are extremely impressive and it is actually difficult to adequately describe with ordinary adjectives...but we will post some pics later which will hopefully do a better job than anything we could write ourselves! One of the highlights of our trip so far has been hiring bicycles and cycling through the jungle and stopping off at the temples as they appeared through the trees (over 2 days we clocked about 90km!). Our favourite was the Bayon, which we visited everyday and spent many hours exploring the maze of passageways and catching different perspectives of all 200+ of the mysterious faces looking out over the temple.

Unfortunately, our wake-up calls kept getting earlier as our tour continued - this time it was to catch the sun rising over the main Angkor Wat temple at 4:30am. We made it up, but it was a big day!

The food here was great too - we loved Cambodian BBQ ostrich, fish amok curry and hot pot.

Phnom Penh was a much more sombre (but important) place to visit as it contained so much history and truth about the horrific experience that was shared by the Cambodian people under the Khmer Rouge regime only 30 years ago. We visited the Killing Fields at Cheung Ek and walked on ground where thousands of Cambodians were tortured and killed - out of a population of 8 million, almost 2 million were exterminated and the scars are still visible today.

We left Phnom Penh with somewhat heavy hearts, but were very much looking forward to Vietnam as we boarded another boat for the last stretch of the Mekong River, which we have followed all the way down from the Golden Triangle, across the border.

At least we had some better transport options here - and who said a Roll's had to have doors!
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More to come soon!

HT and Tez

Posted by HT 01:57 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Laos (continued)

Vang Vieng, Four Thousand Islands and Pakse

sunny 26 °C
View HT and Tez's Amazing Race on HT's travel map.

Sorry everyone, we have been very slack lately, but a good sign that we are keeping pretty busy these days and finding it difficult to get in front of a computer - so, the next few entries will be a best of highlights package from the last 3 weeks which we have been owing you all for some time now.

Where we left off last time with the monks walking off into the sunset, we continued our southward journey through Laos:

If Luang Prabang was a chilled out slice of heaven, Vang Vieng was the perfect antidote to get our adrenalin pumping again...! Tubing down the Nam Song river, stopping off for beers, special "mushroom" shakes and launching ourselves from 10-15m rope swings into the river is a small taste of the action! Of course, there was also some biking, waterfalls and more relaxing activities, including joining all the other backpackers at cafes playing endless repeats of Friends, Simpsons, Family Guy etc 24/7 while eating pizza...some people have obviously been away from home for a while...

To round out Laos, we also spend at a few days in the southern Four Thousand Islands (not really 4,000, but we guess there are a lot). We missed seeing one of the now virtually extinct Irrawaddy dolphins, but ate one of the best soup noodles of our trip at Don Det Island.

And before catching our flight to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat, we squeezed in a taste of what was to come at the Champasak ruins from the Angkor empire when it included part of Laos. This trip is worth a special mention though, because to get there involved an extreme array of transport and hopefully we will never have to go through that again (but it WAS worth it!):

6:00am Wake up
7:00am Boat from Don Det to Port
8:00am Walk to bus station
9:00am "Bus" (otherwise known as a large tuk-tuk outside Lao) to random road junction in the middle of nowhere (pretty good soup noodles though as well as another opportunity to taste BBQ rat!)
12:30pm Hitch-Hike to car ferry in back of a pick-up truck (or ute)
12:45pm Car Ferry across Mekong River
1:00pm Board public bus to Champasak town while on Car Ferry
1:15pm Tuk-Tuk to Champasak ruins and back to Car Ferry
3:00pm Motorbike Ferry across Mekong River
3:15pm Swap onto another ferry halfway across river
3:45pm After extensive haggling, large Tuk-Tuk to Pakse
4:30pm Arrive in Pakse and walk to hotel, then madly run around town looking for an ATM that both is open and accepts my card...
6:00pm Drink many beers while watching Nadal vs Federer in Aus Open final

Needless to say we were looking forward to Siem Reap the next morning!

Posted by HT 06:42 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Laos

Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng, Pakse and Four Thousand Islands

sunny 25 °C
View HT and Tez's Amazing Race on HT's travel map.

Sa Bai Dee!
After Chiang Rai, we jumped on the romantic sounding "Slow Boat to Luang Prabang" - actually, it was a just a slow boat which took two days to get to Luang Prabang down the Mekong sitting on hard and narrow wooden benches...
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We also enjoyed amazing sights such as the following...
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There are more, but think you get the idea!
Tara found the best way to pass the time and thankfully we met some fellow backpackers, henceforth known as the "Slow Boat Crew" (SBC), which hangs out at the back of the boat near the 'bar'.
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We were also offered some delicacies along the way - after a few Beer Laos and bowls of instant noodles, these were starting to look tempting though!
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Luang Prabang
Having finally arrived after our boat trip, we found Luang Prabang to be a very charming and relaxed town to spend a few days in - unfortunately not much time for sleeping in for us (except for an enforced rest when Tara caught a dose of Lao belly - poor thing!) and our hectic pace through Indochina continued...
The monks were an interesting aspect of Lao culture and many of the temples we visited here were "living" in the sense that there were practicing monks using them. With the rising sun and soft beating of the temple drums, monks walk through the town (and right past our guesthouse, which made the early start much more convenient for us!) collecting alms from the locals - mostly sticky rice and fruit - a unique sight as the sun rose each morning
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It was also nice cycling through the city and we found some nearby waterfalls - was very tempting to cool off!
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Much more appetizing than the rats on offer on the slow boat, Vietnamese style noodles with a Laotian fried rice cake off the street were a great start to the day - and only for about US$1!
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As the monks walked into the sunset, we walk on to our next destination...
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Posted by HT 06:18 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Thailand (continued)

Chiang Rai and the Golden Triangle

sunny 20 °C
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Our second day in Chiang Mai started with a tourist trap package tour that we were sucked into in Bangkok on only our first day...so far we are not the most hardened backpackers, but we are learning quickly how to spot something that sounds too good to be true!

Anyway, it was still interesting and we managed to squeeze in 30 mins at a hot spring (conveniently located in the middle of market - or was it the other way around?), a modern buddhist temple, a quick boat trip up to the golden triangle where there is a massive casino/resort complex on the Burmese side now, the northern most tip of Thailand bordering Burma and three villages of minority groups (Akha Hill Tribe - Thai, Akha - Chinese, Pa Dong Longneck Tribe).

Hot spring - too hot for a dip, but perfect for boiling eggs!
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Inspired by the Snow Queen's castle in Narnia...?
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Re-living the glory days of the Golden Triangle - that's Burma over our shoulder
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We crossed into Laos a day early (without visas) to visit another market conveniently located across the Mekong - guess anything goes in the Golden Triangle!
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Is that an armadillo...in whiskey??!
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"The Northern Most of Thailand" - Guess they ran out of room!
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We finished up at Chiang Rai, where we crashed in an upmarket backpacker hostel at about HK$100 (US$12), which even had it's own bathroom - seems we are getting into the lifestyle pretty quickly...

Posted by HT 07:10 Archived in Thailand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Thailand

Bangkok to Chiang Mai

sunny 30 °C

After an early start and a quick stop-over in Bangkok for some raw food, we were off on our way to commence our adventure in Chiang Mai...Tara was clearly excited but perhaps overwhelmed by the weight of her backpack?!

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Another early morning and we were off for some ecotourism at The Elephant Farm north of Chiang Mai, where we underwent some rigorous Mahout (a professional elephant keeper) training, which involved throwing a lot of mud, playing in a river and generally having a lot of fun - was sad to leave our new friends behind.

We realised the secret to youthfulness in Thailand must be mud fights with elephants!DSC04318_JPG.jpg

And baths!!
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Being a Mahout is not that dissimilar from a rodeo cowboy...
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Nothing like a cold beer at the end of the day...Cheers!
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Posted by HT 06:23 Archived in Thailand Tagged ecotourism Comments (2)

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