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Chapter eighty six - Bangkok. Again.

Bye Bye Asia...for now

overcast 28 °C

Day 308: Bangkok, Thailand 03/08/2012

A fairly early start for the bus ride to Bangkok then, with the bus setting off for that most horrendous of borders at Poipet. A nutritous breakfast is eaten on board in the shape of a baguette smeared with a Laughing Cow cheese triangle. We reach the border in good time, being told when we alight 'no sticker, no bus' by the driver, who we assume will meet us on the other side.

Now the fun begins, with the sheer inadequacy of this horrid little part of the world showing itself in all its glory. The scrum on the Cambodian side of the border takes only about 15-20 minutes for us to get through, which is not too bad. Then comes the Thai side...the 100% uncomfortable and wholly inefficient process of getting to the Thai immigration counter takes over two and a half hours, with everybody in the queue being rained on with all their stuff and us enduring the frightening experience of being shouted at by a little old Thai lady.

Once through the rigmarole of dragging ourselves and our stuff through the immigration counter, we start the ridiculous process of being transferred onto a Bangkok bound minibus. Sitting with an Irish couple we met tubing in Laos, we are subjected to the frankly inexcusable ways of the travel mafia, who make us wait around to buy some reasonably priced (but crap) food and drink off them whilst they try to explain why a driver sits in an empty minibus waiting for passengers. Some seriously pissed off people here.

Finally arrive in Bangkok nine hours after starting the 'four hour' journey. Check into the Train Inn for the last time and in need of a beer, discover it is a Buddhist holiday and alcohol shall not be served at 7-eleven.

Day 309: Bangkok, Thailand 04/08/2012

Wake up after a decent night's kip, the horror of Poipet firmly behind us. To anyone reading this, please learn from our mistakes and never travel overland from Thailand to Cambodia - the two times we have done were hellish - the cost of an airfare is more than worth it, despite the expansion of one's carbon footprint.

Off out for the day and our noodle soup breakfast at Hua Lamphong is cut short by the arrival of a couple of rats in the joint. No Saturday in Bangkok would be complete without a visit to Chatuchak Market, the sheer size of the place never ceasing to amaze us. We even find parts we hadn't seen in any of our previous visits, with antiques, second hand watches, military memorobilia and traditional Chinese medicine stalls rearing their heads. The products available here are seemingly never ending, and after a few hours here and a few purchases later, we head for a much needed hair cut and a good bite to eat. We grab a tuk-tuk back to the Train Inn and watch a couple of episodes of Only Fools and Horses on my new box set and cringe at how un-PC it is. Still brilliant though.

Day 310: Bangkok, Thailand 05/08/2012

A lazy morning is spent watching some more Del Boy and Rodney capers at the hotel and after unsuccessfully trying to get the laundry done (it is Sunday), we decide to go for a quiet stroll around Bangkok. We end up seeing lots of parts of the city we have never seen before - local markets, food markets and a vast array of weird and wonderful buildings and areas. Whilst trying some smart trousers on for the Aussie wedding I am shouted at quite viciously by the strange woman market stall owner and told in no uncertain terms to go. Weirdo.

We soon find ourselves back near the station and after marvelling at the hyperactivity of a hedgehog (Sonic?) in a cage at yet another interesting market we embark on that other favourite pastime we have enjoyed in this part of the world, the cinema. The Dark Knight Rises is one of the best films I have ever seen at the cinema and Bane may be my favourite bad guy since Hannibal Lecter. Off to Australia tomorrow. Cannot believe it has come round so quickly! So long Bangkok, we will miss you.

Posted by tevs 22:32 Archived in Thailand Tagged markets market thailand bangkok cinema Comments (0)

Chapter eighty two - Phnom Penh III

Return of the Mack

sunny 31 °C

Day 295: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 21/07/2012

Hmmm, an interesting morning to say the least. I run from breakfast to try to change some dong to dollar. Step into a travel agency - the only place that seems to be offering currency exchange - hand over four and a half million dong and wait, seemingly forever, for the dead presidents to come back to me. Well, when they do arrive they feel a little funny and the gut feeling says something is wrong. When the two dollar bill makes an appearance the alarm bells really ring and I seriously question the legitimacy of the notes. Argue for my dong back (that sounds so wrong) but with our bus departure looming large, we end up losing about a pound for their 'exchange fee'. Oh well, better than a bunch of fake money. Return to eat my cold, shit omelette shaking with rage. Gemma is nowhere to be found. She emerges half an hour later, having been to the shops.

Eventually manage to get hold of some US dollars and the bus picks us up. When I say bus I mean a little man comes, grabs one of our bags and walks us the 300 metres to the bus office. Here the bus picks us up...oh no, turns out to be a taxi taking us to the other office. Eventually find ourselves on the real bus. A nice easy journey back to Phnom Penh and we soon find our way over the Cambodian border very easily and hassle free (Poipet take note). Arrive in Phnom Penh, stumbling across the road on which 'our' hotel is and persuading the bus driver to pull over. We get to the hotel and the staff seem horrified to see us back.

Day 296: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 22/07/2012

Awake, back in one of our favourite cities of the trip, ready to seize the day and see our favourite market, even swinging past some of the other shops we thought were great previously but which seem to be really quite poor. Check the market for a new backpack as Gem's is on the way out and whilst it is not quite as exciting as previously the market proves a great way to while away some time.

We continue the healthy eating regime by taking on at least fourteen thousand calories in the shape of a mammoth ice cream before heading back to the room and I attempt to fix some of the damage with a gym session. A nice dinner is followed by a Sunday night skype and a nice little surprise that came in the post for me.

Day 297: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 23/07/2012

A reasonably early morning is spent strolling to the Chinese Embassy, which is fittingly located on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. Proceed to the consular services office where we pick up a load of forms to fill out and discover we need to have some hotel reservations sorted for the visa to be granted. Ballache.

Head back to the room, grab G's backpack (we are going to try to have it fixed) and get a bite to eat. We take a tuk-tuk to the market and discover that the bag can be fixed for an extortionate $5. We get lost in the market despite it being about the fifteenth time we have been there and with a few hours to kill before the bag will be ready we decide there is only one thing for it and have a beer or two. I head back into the maze of the market, grab the bag (after asking at the wrong stall) and find the bag is now better than new. Have a couple more bottles, and feel more than tipsy after a grand total of about four pints. A takeaway for one in the room with sleeping beauty away with the fairies.

Day 298: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 24/07/2012

Our idea of waking up early and getting the visas for China issued and stuck in our passports works out well. Gemma is severely hungover and it must be said I also wake up with a fuzzy head...(should this blog be called 'Around the World in 80 Hangovers?'). I take the plunge and brave the elements and head to the consulate down on Mao Ave. Here I am treated embarrassingly rudely and I leave empty handed as a visa requires a full itinerary and proof of funds to be submitted, in addition to an official looking hand written A4 sheet outlining our intentions here. Back tomorrow then for a third visit!

Back at the room G has made some progress in beating her 'illness' and we head out for a spot of lunch at a very nice restaurant near Tuol Sleng before taking a stroll around the town centre, even taking in some parts we haven't been to yet! Stop for a drink in a rather odd coffee shop, where the message 'Merry Christmas' is adorned on every wall - in the type of tinsel and plastic decoration outlawed by my mother in the 1980s - amidst brown formica and further strange decorations and mod cons, including a huge remote controlled helicopter suspended from the ceiling. In a neighbouring shop, a child asleep on a bed in the middle of the shop floor opens his eyes and looks around, sees us two and flops straight back down, face first into the pillow. Know the feeling kid. Gemma certainly does today...

The evening is spent planning China and ensuring we have everything we need for the visas to be issued.

Posted by tevs 21:25 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beer market shopping cambodia phnom_penh Comments (0)

Chapter eighty one - Phnom Penh III

Return of the Mack

sunny 31 °C

Day 295: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 21/07/2012

Hmmm, an interesting morning to say the least. I run from breakfast to try to change some dong to dollar. Step into a travel agency - the only place that seems to be offering currency exchange - hand over four and a half million dong and wait, seemingly forever, for the dead presidents to come back to me. Well, when they do arrive they feel a little funny and the gut feeling says something is wrong. When the two dollar bill makes an appearance the alarm bells really ring and I seriously question the legitimacy of the notes. Argue for my dong back (that sounds so wrong) but with our bus departure looming large, we end up losing about a pound for their 'exchange fee'. Oh well, better than a bunch of fake money. Return to eat my cold, shit omelette shaking with rage. Gemma is nowhere to be found. She emerges half an hour later, having been to the shops.

Eventually manage to get hold of some US dollars and the bus picks us up. When I say bus I mean a little man comes, grabs one of our bags and walks us the 300 metres to the bus office. Here the bus picks us up...oh no, turns out to be a taxi taking us to the other office. Eventually find ourselves on the real bus. A nice easy journey back to Phnom Penh and we soon find our way over the Cambodian border very easily and hassle free (Poipet take note). Arrive in Phnom Penh, stumbling across the road on which 'our' hotel is and persuading the bus driver to pull over. We get to the hotel and the staff seem horrified to see us back.

Day 296: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 22/07/2012

Awake, back in one of our favourite cities of the trip, ready to seize the day and see our favourite market, even swinging past some of the other shops we thought were great previously but which seem to be really quite poor. Check the market for a new backpack as Gem's is on the way out and whilst it is not quite as exciting as previously the market proves a great way to while away some time.

We continue the healthy eating regime by taking on at least fourteen thousand calories in the shape of a mammoth ice cream before heading back to the room and I attempt to fix some of the damage with a gym session. A nice dinner is followed by a Sunday night skype and a nice little surprise that came in the post for me.

Day 297: Phnom Penh, Cambodia 23/07/2012

A reasonably early morning is spent strolling to the Chinese Embassy, which is fittingly located on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard. Proceed to the consular services office where we pick up a load of forms to fill out and discover we need to have some hotel reservations sorted for the visa to be granted. Ballache.

Head back to the room, grab G's backpack (we are going to try to have it fixed) and get a bite to eat. We take a tuk-tuk to the market and discover that the bag can be fixed for an extortionate $5. We get lost in the market despite it being about the fifteenth time we have been there and with a few hours to kill before the bag will be ready we decide there is only one thing for it and have a beer or two. I head back into the maze of the market, grab the bag (after asking at the wrong stall) and find the bag is now better than new. Have a couple more bottles, and feel more than tipsy after a grand total of about four pints. A takeaway for one in the room with sleeping beauty away with the fairies.

Posted by tevs 21:25 Archived in Cambodia Tagged beer market shopping cambodia phnom_penh Comments (0)

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