Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Siem Reap

I said Angkor I said Wat, I said Angkor Wat you want?

Well I know I don't want;
"10 postcards 1 dorra"
"Cold drink PepsiFantaTeaCoffeeWaterJuice"
And I really know that I don't want a f@cking tuk tuk!!!

The temples of Angkor are pretty damn impressive (even for a non temple type) but the tourism does slightly mar the experience. It is peak season and it isn't terrible but it would be a whole lot nicer if everyone else would piss off!
Some tourists just have no shame!

Some photos to enjoy from the comfort of your sofa...

Not somewhere you ride everyday

Fair enough, they are about a gizzillion years old

Time to reflect

To be honest mate you'd do better to knock it down and redo the whole thing properly

We had the whole place to ourselves, welll nearly....

Well that helps

How I felt by the end of the day

We did a big cycle ride through the temples and out to the land mine museum. Jeez those days have caused some pain & suffering with their bloody wars. Can't someone come back and clean up their mess? We felt a bit more worthy than the other tourists but a little more worthy because we cycled the 70km round trip instead if sitting in a tuk tuk or minibus. Does that make us more worthy? I'm not sure, but it certainly made us feel more sweaty! 

Siem Reap in general takes a bit of time to get to know. There is a tacky tourist centre called Pub Street which is pretty bad, some old skool backpacker joints with shagged out chairs and lots of mosquitos and then there are some nice cool cafes. A real mix of everything.

We went to change up some UK money we had but they wouldn't accept it as it was too old, pointing at the illustration of Charles Darwin on a tenner and the dates 1809-1882! We gave up and went to the ATM instead...
We were thinking of asking this guy to join us on our tour, roasted peanuts and no need to stop to buy them.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Life along the river

I thought I (I being Kate) would add a little to yesterday's post about the sights of yesterday's journey. 

Many of the homes we saw were floating along the banks of the river. Life was all about the river. The kids were very adept at handling a boat even from a young age although I dread to think how many kids drown in these communities. There are certainly no safety gates around! I don't suppose there are any statistics available though. 

One particular image has stuck in my mind of a young boy who must only have been 4-5 years old. We were dropping off locals along the way at various points and as we passed one little house I noticed this boy run along the front of the house and jump into a little boat. He was shouting and as our boat slowed down, he paddled furiously from the front of the boat to catch us up. It took him a few minutes but he was soon alongside us as who I assume was his grandmother gathered her belongings  and handed them down from our boat to his. The excitement in his face to see his grandmother and more importantly the goodies she had brought was very cute to see. The grandmother took over the paddle to take them back home as the boy rummaged through her bags and pulled out t-shirts and other gifts, chatting away excitedly. I have photos but unfortunately they are on my big camera and I have no way of downloading them at the moment. 

We even saw a bunch of school kids in uniform lying about in a tiny boat doing their homework. But there were many more kids helping their parents out with fishing duties or washing clothes. Most of them would smile and shout hello as we put-putted past, but others looked like they'd seen it all before and couldn't be bothered. As Will says, it was a bit uncomfortable at times, feeling like a voyeur on their very different lives. But I  did find it fascinating and despite the discomfort of the boat trip I would recommend doing it, but perhaps in the wet season when it would be shorter and less gruelling. 

3 important lessons

Yesterday on the boat and especially last night getting into Siam reap was a tough old day. I'm so glad that both of us are equally into doing this trip. If either one had coerced or cajoled the other into the idea of our chosen activity, they would have paid for it big time last night. 
The excitement of arriving here kept us going but riding at night down dirt roads getting eyefuls of insects and/or riding down the pitch black hard shoulder of a busy highway into a major Asian city would be easy things to hold against your travelling partner if you didn't really want to be there in the first place.

2 more important things. Always ensure your luggage and the dust on your bike are colour coded to the local 'men of cloth' and 'on brand'!

The Cambodian Queen

Battanbang was fun. We'd thought we might stay 2 days, it turned out to b 5. Any town where you can get a delicious dinner for 50p, a haircut as good as any other for 80p and a head spin inducing Margherita for £1.30 is pretty good in my book. Chuck in a few interesting people to chat to in the bars, some temples to explore and a buzzing Asian vine (but in a laid back way?) and it made for a great few days.
We took the boat to Siam Reap, yes I know we're supposed to be cycling but it would have been about 200km of horrible, noisy, busy highway riding along the hard shoulder and we just didn't fancy that. Chatting to a fellow Aussie cyclist ( who lives in the little street we first lived in in Sydney- what are the chances of that?) the hills in Laos will more than make up for our current lame record of actually doing any pedalling at all.
The boat ride was an experience in itself mind you. A pleasure cruise it was not! 
Due to the low water level during the dry season, the 60 seater vessel needed to wheedle its way down the river, lurching about as it slipped (hopefully) over the muddy banks or river bottom. The families of fisher folk who choose to make the river banks their home were the usual super friendly Cambodians - the little kids waving and shouting hello as the parents toiled away. It looks like a pretty tough, poor existence for them I have to say. Guilty thoughts about being a privileged rich westerner kept creeping into my mind. Fellow Europeans on the boat sat wearing their ray ban sun glasses, snapping away on uber expensive cameras. Yes, I'm one of them as well (although my sun glasses are cheaper) but at least I know I felt uncomfortable gawping at these poor people, of others, I'm no so sure. Hmm, the strange world we live in eh...

The boat broke down at one point but old capitano got a new, much better bit of string out of his 'special cupboard' and we were soon on our way again. We ran aground about 7 times and I lost count of the number of crashes into the bank, each one thrusting half a jungly mangrove bush into the paying punters. I was genuinely scared quite a few times as the boat tipped sideways and I thought we were going over. We all certainly got our $20 worth! Mind you, there was an Italian family who once they'd taken a few photos, sat there jabbering away, totally un aware of anything happening around them. They may just as well have been in a pizzeria in Milano. Bizarre.

After half an hour off for good behaviour (lunch stop) the river thankfully opened out and we could motor along without clutching on to the seats. Speaking of seats, the flat wooden plank benches made our bike saddles feel like luxury. Overall it was a bit of a day so far...

Once off the bloody boat (it was 10 hours all up), all we had to do was ride the 12km into Siam Reap, find a guest house and go out to explore what was hopefully to be a very interesting town. Well that's what we thought.... The map or road or something was wrong and we ended up doing a massive loop to get round into the city. All up we did about 30km with over half of that on sand tracks or red dusty road.
 We teamed up with a French couple who were also biking around asia but they,
being French nutters, had their 4 year old boy in a trailer behind daddies bike! 

Finally we got into town and checked into the first reasonable guest house we found. All up we'd been on the go for 13 hours. I know, no sympathy but I thought I'd try it anyway.... Cheers x

Friday, 23 January 2015


The town of Battambang is a pretty cool  place. A real mix of third world craziness, traditional old school backpack haunts and some uber cool ( but not up themselves ) modern bars and restaurants. It has a laid back vibe, well not so laid back at 6am when they blast out the national anthem on massive but tinny speakers for school assembly next door....
We spent yesterday just cruising about town, kate chatting to people in bars (you know what she's like..)
We got talking to a really nice and interesting Dutch lady who works for the Red Cross as a physio therapist for rehabilitation of land mine victims. She took us up to her work for a look around. It was pretty impressive. All local employees (except her and the Belgian boss) and they actually manufacture and fit the prosthetics there on site and also have a gym etc for getting folk back on their feet properly. 

God it makes you think about the different people in this world. Ones that are happy to dedicate their lives to helping others and ones that will just steal and abuse to get everything that they want. The Dutch lady's previous partner was a doctor she met through work. He got blown up in Afghanistan a year ago, paying the ultimate price whilst trying to do his bit to help others....
In the evening we went out to a local circus show. I feel like a travel critic but it really was a charming mix of very impressive acrobatics and innocent humour. I'd certainly recommend it to you if you're passing this way. Tip of the week is to bring a cushion though cos the wooden benches played havoc with our already bruised buttox.
Not much else to report so here are so photos which hopefully catch some of the atmos of our favourite place so far - Battambang

Homage to the mighty C90

A bit like Raffles?

It's a bugs life

All praise the elephant

Elf n safe tea

Night markets


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Mad dogs and English nutters...

It was pitch black as we slipped in around the side of the big iron gates. Well the waitress from the restaurant  the night before said they opened at 6 and it was 5 past now. We shouted out and slowly the staff emerged, but not the girl from last night... The sun rose as we ate our omelettes and we were soon on our way, after chatting to an American cyclist who we met back at the hotel.

The first couple of hours were ok and we covered good ground so stopped off for a drink. Lovely spot eh

But it was a great place for taking photos of the weird trucks they have here

The heat rose and we stopped again for a drink and some bananas

More riding until a hot lunch stop - noodle soup this time

The heat piled on. It was about 33 degrees and little shade once out riding. The traffic wasn't too bad for a crazy Asian country, it felt pretty safe. Did I mention it was hot? We had a bit of a head wind but at least it kept us cool.
Pee stops were a little difficult with the new challenge of land mines... This spot was perfect

We'd read a guys blog who suggested a stop off half way but when we saw the sign for the place we pushed on

We arrived in Battanbang around 3.30 so an 8 hour day riding of 88km. We cruised around and found a decent hotel- what you'd pay over £100 for in UK for about £9. The town looks interesting but we need to explore properly. More later....

Arses are sore and need R n R xx

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Hello Cambodia!!!

The Internet is soooo slow. Photos to come another day....

Yep, any of you who paid attention in geography lessons will know that we've cheated. Is it cheating? We never planned to pedal every inch of the way...

Whilst we sat at dinner surrounded by the less desirable of the western world we weighed up our options. 

5 days of long hot riding through generally flat and boring rural countryside and 5 nights in soulless Thai industrial towns or half a day in a mini bus? It was a bit of a no brainer.

You know I have to say the invention of the internal combustion engine is one to really not overlook, I reckon it might catch on!

Despite the slightly edgy and gloomy description of the border crossing and surrounding areas  that the Lonely Planet book would lead you to believe we now find ourselves laying on the bed in a clean(ish) room for $7 in the town of Pailin. 

The locals seem friendly enough, check out this sign at the bank, polite enough eh?!

Cambodia is definitely poorer than Thailand. It actually feels quite a lot like rural Nepal (well not quite that bad) but there are little kids working at the roadside splitting some kind of root vegetable and laying it out on big sheets is the sun to dry. The driving seems quite sane but there is little shoulder on the road to take cover from the passing trucks. There is the same thick haze in the air as Nepal, a combo of dust, pollution and smoke from small farming fires I guess. Our eyes are already sore.

We've ridden about 20km from the border and the hills have started but granny gear has not yet been deployed. Tomorrow we plan to ride to Battambang which is about 80km. The prevailing wind will be against us so we are predicting a tough day. There are no towns shown on our map but its a bit crap so you never know. There do seem to be however quite a few little shacks/stalls selling drinks so I reckon we'll be ok.
We've now moved outside to the breezy roof terrace to take in the atmosphere, laying on the bed staring at the bare wires sticking out of the wall and the grime on the ceiling fan was beginning to get to us, such is the life of an adventurer.....

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Lady boys and lilos

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday afternoon we were slogging it out in 35 degrees and now we're sitting in our 3rd seafront cafe of the day.
Mind you it's not all good. There are way too many men wandering around in baggy speedos for my liking but I do seem to be having trouble holding Kate's attention....
The 37km ride down the hard shoulder of the motorway wasn't much fun, especially crossing the slip roads on & off it. It didn't feel dangerous, just hot noisy and unpleasant. At one set of traffic lights I felt a trickle of sweat run all the way down from my neck, straight down my back and into the open arms of Betty. Nice!
We got off the motorway ASAP and cruised through Pattaya, passed by the beach and then wobbled our way through the centre of the seedy downtown. Now, me being the innocent type, I was surprised to see a bar called the Pink Lady in amongst the other XXX ones. I mean, a bar specialising in Apple juice made from my favourite apples, fancy that! Well I guess that's what it was cos it was next door to the Banana Bar.....

The weirdness continues. During our iced coffee overlooking the beach, they've played 'Like a Rhinestone cowboy', 'Working 9-5' and 'Puff the magic dragon'. Get us out of here!

Betty stretches her legs

The receptionist at the Seaview Hotel in Si Racha looked a bit surprised when a beet root faced sweaty cyclist stumbled up to her marble desk. Even the price of the Superior Sea view room wasn't enough to put us off (£28) and we were soon relaxing on our balcony looking out over the Gulf of Thailand. Even better was the towel folding display which was worth £28 in itself!

The day had started well with an egg fried rice breakfast at a roadside cafe. 
We've managed to buy a reasonable map of the area and along with 'Maps with me' on our phones navigating isn't too bad. We did get lost at one point and pulled into a police station to ask directions. The hapless cops seemed far more interested in taking photos with us than looking at a big piece of paper with loads of squiggly lines on it and we were soon on our way none the wiser.

Now off the main roads the riding and scenery were much more pleasant - a bit like France but with a few more of these.

Morning coffee resulted in more photo requests which we duly undertook.

A hot and dusty main road then skirted us around an industrial area and after an hour or so of that we stumbled a little dizzily into a shady cafe for a bowl of steaming fish ball soup. We still had a long way to go.

 All this zig zagging to keep off the horrible main roads was pushing up our distance.
The 70km mark clicked by just as we rather desperately took a road that we hoped would cut off a big corner and get us to the next decent sized town where we hoped we'd find somewhere to stay. It was seriously hot out there and a little endless. Finally after a few more wrong turns that resulted in us riding up a motorway hard shoulder in the wrong direction we pulled up outside the Seaview hotel with 97 bloody long hot K's under our wheels. 
We fancied a non Asia dinner so opted for a American Grill place and both ordered what turned out to be a pretty damn weird version of a cheese burger. Bed beckoned.....