A Travellerspoint blog

March 2012

Chapter forty six - Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia

sunny 31 °C

Day 166: Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia 14/03/2012

We are off today to camp on a desert island a one and a half hour boat journey from Sihanoukville. Have a full English breakfast to set us up for the day and have a few games of pool to pass the time before our boat departs. We take a walk to the pier we are being picked up from and after a bit of confusion and sitting around like lemons for half an hour we get on the right boat and are away. We are met on the boat by Liam who runs/owns the campsite and arrive on the island to be greeted by a scene out of Castaway.

It turns out we are the only guests and our tent is literally two feet from the high tide line, meaning a nice easy stroll to the beach in the morning! There are hammocks dotted around the place, a reef to snorkel in and a hell of a lot of secluded beach to take ownership of. We have a Cambodian curry for dinner with Liam and his girlfriend, Vanna and head off for an early night. A bit of a hot, sweaty night in the tent but remember it's location, location, location! Would definitely recommend this experience to anybody coming to Cambodia (camp-cambodia.com).

Day 167: Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia 15/03/2012

Open the tent in the morning to be greeted by the sea, the beach and the jungle all just inches from our bed...Cambodian noodles for breakfast before we grab a couple of snorkels and head out to the reef just in front of where our tent is pitched. Gemma has had a bad experience snorkelling at Disney before so she is not overly confident at first but soon becomes much better. There are lots of fish to see and some interesting looking plant life under the water - some great colours as well, from bright blues and greens to leopard print!

Have a peaceful afternoon on a secluded bit of beach with literally nobody around. I fashion a jungle gym out of a fallen tree and a big log as Gemma has a snooze. Pure improvisation. Good tea - red prawn curry with peanuts. We sleep in the under construction beach bungalow, which is a lot cooler than the tent and take a midnight stroll down the beach.

Day 168: Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia 16/03/2012

A much better night's sleep followed by a breakfast of omelette and baked beans. We each like only half of the breakfast. Decide to take on the jungle trail through the island recommended by Liam, which winds to the other side of the island, where there are some beautiful bays, and then traipse blindly through the jungle back to the camp, getting lost, stung and chased by an incoming thunderstorm on the way. Another good lunch - it's amazing the quality of food you can get on a desert island, I think Tom Hanks was milking it all a bit...

Back to the quiet beach again, where an old couple on a boat trip dare to walk within a hundred metres of our spot! We snorkel again for a bit before I head to my jungle gym again whilst Gemma reads in the hammock. Have a calamity and drop the makeshift weight on my face, resulting in a fat split lip. Learn that Gemma is always right, as she helps me put the hammock I destroyed back together (she is editing this). Another early night. Could get used to the life here...

Day 169: Koh Ta Kiev, Cambodia 17/03/2012

Omelette baguettes for breakfast, before another day of swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing. Laze about in the hammocks for a couple of hours before lunch and generally live the good life. I do not revisit the gym after yesterday's accident. Pick a can up in the sea, which is housing a squid. Gemma runs to get the camera but the squid jumps out and inks itself before she gets back.

We head out on the boat at sunset for a fishing trip. Surprisingly, we come back empty handed.

An excellent tea, a sort of barbecue placed in the middle of the table, with plates of different meats and veg - you just pile what you want onto the grill. Our last night on the island. Need to do something like this again we think.

Posted by tevs 23:06 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beaches snorkelling fishing cambodia hammock camping koh_ta_kiev desert_island Comments (4)

Chapter forty five - Sihanoukville

sunny 32 °C

Day 164: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 12/03/2012

Surprisingly, we are up at the right time for this morning's bus and after a tuk-tuk ride to the bus stand my dodgy stomach sees me dive into the attached cafe to use the facilities. Gemma gets us some breakfast and we get on the bus, before I quickly have to dive off again before we depart.

An easy enough journey despite my stomach wreaking havoc. We get an overpriced tuk-tuk from the bus stand in Sihanoukville to a hotel we have seen online, which is full, so we end up checking in next door, at the traditional Khmer residency 'Mick & Craig's'. They have a Mexican food night tonight which looks promising. We go for a walk and soon realise that Sihanoukville is not our favourite stop on the journey, having a seedy undercurrent with lots of prostitution and sleazy older western men, as well as a bit of a lager lout/stoner population.

We go for a drink. Gemma hits the vodka Red Bull again and as I sit back with a soda water she gets progressively more squiffy. We go back for dinner at ours, Gemma falls asleep at the table and thinks we are still down the road when she wakes up.

Day 165: Sihanoukville, Cambodia 13/03/2012

Wake up and I feel a lot better, not so sure Gemma does though, as she awakes with a dry mouth...We go for breakfast a few doors down and then walk down to the beach, which has a ridiculous number of sun loungers and parasols and also some Total Wipeout style inflatables in the water. We set up shop and have a few soft drinks, I walk back to the room to get some things and in the space of half an hour I return with a superb vest tan. Sit at the beach for a few hours, thinking where to go as we aren't keen on staying too long here. There are lots of children who seem to live at the beach, collecting empty cans and bottles and any other recyclables, some of them are very young, which is very sad to see.

Tea at the night market - pork noodles for a change - before we buy some stuff we need from the shops. I try to hide Gemma's flip flops, which the shopkeeper finds hilarious. Reassuring to know that comedy gold is recognised the world over. We go to the cinema place next door which has a number of private rooms and screens and we watch the Inbetweeners movie. We have an adventure lined up for tomorrow...

Posted by tevs 22:49 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beaches cambodia sihanoukville Comments (0)

Chapter forty four - Phnom Penh

sunny 30 °C

Day 159: Phom Penh, Cambodia 07/03/2012

Awoken by Gemma, who tells me that it is half eight, thinking the bus leaves at half nine. I however, remember the bus leaves at nine, so make a mad dash to the shower, throw everything together and before long we are running to the bus stop to see a coach just pulling away. Fearing it is our bus, we ask at the desk and the woman tells us that the one just pulling in is the 8am service. This cannot be right surely, the buses always run on time, not an hour behind, this is not Engla...oh hang on, I take a glance at the clock behind the woman's desk and sure enough we have had another bout of the inability to tell the time as it is in fact 7.55am. WE HAVE TO STOP DOING THIS!

Grab a baguette for breakfast and are allowed onto the slightly earlier bus, which results in quite a hot experience as the A/C packs in halfway through. We arrive in Phnom Penh at about 2pm, with my shirt well and truly stuck to my back. Walk around to find a hotel and eventually find one via a tuk-tuk for $10 a night.

Go for a bite to eat and on the way Gemma's flip flop breaks. Try to find a shop for some new ones but this seems to be an area selling only motorbikes. Luckily, the girl at the restaurant glues the flip flop back together, giving us time to get to the Central Market, which is now closing. We take a walk around for a bit longer before the flip flop breaks again and it is time to go back to the room.

Day 160: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 08/03/2012

Wake up and we both go to the gym a few doors down. Bizarrely, after the fifty cents entry fee, it is another fifty cents for every ten minutes you want to use the machines. No such charges in the free weights section and I end up very, very sweaty. Gemma does too after her ten minutes on the treadmill. After a much needed shower, we head for lunch, opting for an incredible Vietnamese soup called pho. Mine includes crab meat, liver and kidney. Nutritious.

We explore the city for a few hours - we visit the market in the daytime before it shuts this time, where there is lots and lots to see and buy. We then visit a tattoo shop and have a quick hour in there. More grounding to follow no doubt. First impressions are that Phnom Penh is a very nice city and there appear to be some really nice places to eat and drink. We head for a quick drink - a glass of wine for me, Gemma orders what she thinks is a cocktail that turns out to be a shot! Go for a beer round the corner at the Sports Bar, where it is happy hour. End up staying well beyond happy hour, eating there and playing pool.

On the way back, quite well oiled now, one of us (who shall remain nameless) remembers the karaoke bar opposite the hotel. To cut a long story short, we politely decline the services of the 'hostesses' who usually accompany people, with me instead belting out a couple of classics on the stage like a true pro. I then head for some food, somehow end up with boiled eggs and locked out of the room by the now sleeping Gemma.

Day 161: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 09/03/2012

Do not feel good upon waking up, ready to throw myself out of the top floor window. After trying to resurrect myself whilst playing down the shame of the karaoke performance, we go and get some good food, which instantly helps lift my mood. Visit the market again, seeing it properly this time and taking our time to spot some good bargains and come away with a couple of armfuls of shopping. It is absolutely huge and something of a maze, with us miraculously ending up back at the same spots time and time again. Upon leaving the market we stumble upon a huge shopping mall, where we enjoy the air conditioning and share an enormous Snickers ice cream. The mall gets better though as on the top floor there is a cinema, an open balcony area where there are some pretty impressive views of the city and also, as its piece de resistance, an indoor skate park/roller disco. Absolutely no doubt where we will be going tomorrow.

We go back to the room, have a shower and go for dinner at a very posh restaurant, which is very nice. Oh and there is the small matter of asking Gemma to marry me. Luckily she agrees. It must have been last night's singing that swayed it.

Day 162: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 10/03/2012

We wake up both over the moon and grab some quick breakfast noodles before heading to the city centre for a day of fun. We go to the cinema for the matinee showing of a film called Hugo, which stars a load of British screen legends and is in fact very very good. It is in 3D and the experience is improved by the guy next to us getting very excited and making all the right noises at each and every scene of mild peril! Hilarious, and the popcorn is quite sumptuous.

Next, we move onto the rollerdome and don the rollerblades for a session in the skate park. Luckily they have a pair big enough for me and we are able to relive my youth together on the ramps. Safety is clearly a big issue here as there are fans that spray water into the arena, making for a slippery surface.

We head towards the night market near Wat Phnom, where there is a Mr Motivator style class going on, which is highly entertaining. Dinner is some incredible food off the food stalls, eaten in a kind of picnic area. We then spend a record amount of time on Skype and are congratulated by all the folks back home.

Day 163: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 11/03/2012

A little unsure what to do today and after considering a trip to a nearby wildlife sanctuary we opt for staying in the city, visiting Tuol Sleng, or S-21 as it was known, the main prison used by Pol Pot for interrogating and killing thousands of prisoners. An excellent exhibition and although it is a very harrowing experience was definitely worth doing. We have a lazy day after this, and just in time for our bus journey to Sihanoukville tomorrow, I start to feel unwell...

Posted by tevs 21:59 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia phnom_penh city Comments (0)

Chapter forty three - Battambang

sunny 29 °C

Day 157: Battambang, Cambodia 05/03/2012

Up earlyish for our bus to Battambang from Siem Reap. A breakfast of peanut butter and jelly baguette is every bit as good as it sounds. On the bus for half nine and very nice it is too. We weren't expecting too much at $4 each but it is a brand new, air conditioned luxury coach with lots of legroom, which was handy for Gemma. Arrive in Battambang about 1pm and it seems to be a nice little town, a million miles from the more westernised appearance of Siem Reap, with a huge traditional market and lots of activity around the bus stand. We are mobbed by tuk-tuk drivers upon getting off the bus but are eventually accosted by a friendly driver who takes us to check out a few hotel options for half a dollar. We end up agreeing to hiring him for the rest of the afternoon and after a quick lunch he takes us first to the bamboo train, which was a great experience.

The bamboo train is basically a disused train line that was adapted by the locals to transport their stuff around on 6 foot by 4 foot bamboo platforms powered by a small diesel engine. The train rattled through the countryside a bit quicker than we expected and was a bumpier experience than a teenager's forehead. The real fun, however, occurs when there is a train approaching in the opposite direction, at which point all occupants must jump off for the train to be dismantled and taken off the track, allowing the other vehicle to pass. This bizarre experience is quite a lot of fun and the whole carriage needs to be put back together to continue the journey. After about half an hour, at the end of the line, we alighted to grab a drink and were befriended by some local kids who made some pretty impressive models out of grass and who, despite living in a poor rural part of the country, were far more competent at working all the features of a Fujifilm camera than the pair of us.

After the bamboo train we visited the rather more sobering killing cave, a cave and former temple used by Pol Pot as part of his somewhat misguided efforts to enforce his Khmer Rouge regime. However, the views from the top of the mountain here are quite spectacular and there is an incredible gold temple frequented by monkeys at the summit. Our driver is very funny and charismatic and assures us that the most poisonous snake in Cambodia is the same as in the UK, this serpent of doom being the infamous 'trouser snake' apparently.

Day 158: Battambang, Cambodia 06/03/2012

A lazy morning spent watching some tv in the room is followed by a call back to Maidenhead to wish Dave a happy birthday. I get my time difference calculations ever so slightly wrong and wake them all up but still good to talk. A good, cheap lunch is followed by a walk around the market, which is very busy, hot and noisy. There is a huge butcher/fishmonger district within the market and the cleavers are moving at a hundred miles an hour, resulting in Gemma being flicked with bits of raw pork.

Decide on where to go next, look into going all the way to the coast and to Sihanoukville, but Phnom Penh edges out as favourite and we book another ticket through the same bus company for the following day. Six hour journey costs $5 each, leaving at 9am tomorrow. Perfect. Have dinner at a restaurant called 'Smoking Pot' and head back for an early night. On the way home Gemma has the brainwave to buy some cheap vodka and some Red Bull. After finishing her drinks she is out like a light at about 11pm. No such luck for me as the Red Bull has the normal effect and I am still climbing the walls about 5 hours later.

Posted by tevs 21:39 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia battambang bamboo_train killing_cave Comments (0)

Chapter forty two - Siem Reap

sunny 29 °C

Day 153: Siem Reap, Cambodia 01/03/2012

Well then, another early morning start, this time up at 5am to catch the train from Bangkok to the border with Cambodia. In our seats well before sunrise, and already Bangkok is a hive of activity. Although it is a long journey, it is pretty painless and we arrive at the border just before midday. Grab a filling, cheap and quite delicious meal at the station and then catch a tuk-tuk to the border. We are royally ripped off at the border for our visas by some helpful 'official' visa officers (one of whom wears a Villa shirt, which makes things even worse) and make it across the border in one piece, albeit a bit pissed off by the overcharging for the visas and the hot, arduous queues both sides of the border.

Once over the border we are taken by free shuttle bus to a government bus stand, where we pay well over the odds for the bus journey to Siem Reap. Shameless exploitation. Eventually arrive in Siem Reap about fourteen hours after we left Bangkok and our first impressions are not great - we are greeted by a main road lined by bland, faceless upmarket hotels clearly catering to the wealthy foreigners that visit the city. Find a decent priced Cambodian tuk tuk (trailer on the back of a moped) to the main area downtown and check in to a hotel we found in our Lonely Planet. Nine bucks, two double beds, fridge, cable tv, wifi and rooftop gym. Bargain.

Go for dinner - prices here are incredible and the quality equally good. Also becomes apparent that draft beer is fifty cents in 90% of the bars and restaurants. We head into a bar for a drink to use the pool table and notice lots of white men socialising with local women. As it becomes apparent it is something of a 'hostess' bar, a working girl moves herself from sitting on the back of a tourists shoulders resulting in a roundhouse kick to Gemma's ribs. It seems the world's oldest profession had discovered the world's oldest martial art. Another good story for the post trip anecdotes at least I suppose, as I escort (no pun intended) Gemma back to the room, holding an ice pack to her side (only kidding, she was fine).

Day 154: Siem Reap, Cambodia 02/03/2012

Wake up a little groggy after the previous long, budget busting day and last night's revelation that beer is cheaper than water in this country. Drag myself up to the rooftop gym with my glamorous assistant in tow, where we proceed to sweat profusely. We go for breakfast at a very nice pastry shop and take a stroll around the town. A lovely city, with a some great shops and market stalls and a whole load of tempters at great prices, including some incredible canvases and any number of trinkets for the home Gemma seems to have planned in her head...

Get our laundry done $1 a kilo, which is pretty reasonable we think. Head out for dinner and it is good! Fresh spring rolls, Khmer curry amok and fresh Khmer salad for Gemma. Despite the ridiculously cheap prices everywhere, we manage to somehow exceed our daily budget, which may be due to spending the majority of the afternoon in 'X Bar' playing pool and taking advantage of their rather extended 'happy hour' and me throwing a bottle of Lacoste aftershave across a shop (by accident) in the morning. Demolition man strikes again.

Day 155: Siem Reap, Cambodia 03/03/2012

Up and again a little bit tired but drag myself up to the rooftop gym (alone this time) and again produce an unbelievable amount of sweat. Another excellent lunch at a decent price. We want to have a bit more of a budget drive today so I am advised not to touch ANYTHING. However, we stumble across a crocodile farm and head in for a visit. These are some weird, demonic, prehistoric killing machines and the crocs in the farm range from tiny babies to small handicapped (mainly tailless) animals to hundreds of massive monsters. There are literally hundreds of them and there is the odd fight/sudden movement that causes us to jump. Thankfully, a very kind, helpful and thoughtful individual has erected a sign advising us to stay out of the crocodiles' enclosure and pool.

We spend the rest of the day sitting by the river, playing Uno and watching out for crocs.

Day 156: Siem Reap, Cambodia 04/03/2012

Considered going to Angkor Wat today, and sadly after overspending over the past few days, waking up late and not wanting to be swarmed by American tourists, we decide against. Probably sacrilegious but a decision we made and stand by.

Have a very lazy day, sort out a route back to Bangkok and after another wander around we have a manicure together. Have a good Skype session and a relatively early night.

Posted by tevs 01:47 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia siem_reap Comments (0)

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