Brett and Chris

April 10, 2010

The important business meeting between Brett and Mark (held under a palm tree) was not recorded.

Ko Samed, Thailand, Saturday 10th April

more words to follow

Sue's image of the business meeting (with some artistic licence)


Skinny latte and Preggy Squid

April 8, 2010

Breakfast at the boutiquey Loft hotel was an hilarious random affair where a dippy waitress served us mangoes, sticky rice, muesli, egg, toast and fruit in various orders and combinations with a lot of giggling and apologising on the odd occasion when she realised it was all a total shambles.

Finding a mid morning coffee was just as hard as bagging a Som Tam the previous night, Chinatown had everything but, and we walked most of its streets!

The area around the Democracy monument, near the backpacker hangout of Kho San road, was lined with Red Shirts and their stalls. It was all very peaceful, almost jovial when we walked through, (much less intimidating than stallholders in Patpong). [This area erupted into violent clashes a couple of days later when we were safely on the beach.]

By the evening our food finding noses were back on track and took us to Lek’s retaurant, right beneath the Sky Train station that we had used the night before. Tables full of locals and tourists sprawled along the street and up an alley and everywhere was fish, fried, curried and barbecued. Preggy squid was squid stuffed with yam, the fishcakes were delicately spiced and the Tom Yam was fiery.

Bangkok, Thailand. Thursday 8th April.

Photos to follow.

Back in Bangkok

April 7, 2010

Flying out of Cambodia includes yet more expensive scams, this time $25 airport tax.

Sitting in a car for the first time in weeks, Bangkok looks very glossy with frosted magenta taxi’s and girls in clicky heels and we feel very scruffy, our clothes and skin ingrained with red Cambodian dust. By the end of the day we have showered, shopped and had haircuts and feel that we can hit the streets without shame.

Nothing looks familiar since we were last here more than 20 years ago and it takes us a while to find our feet. Even a simple task like finding a Thai restaurant was beyond our capabilities though we did find a good market lunch. (When we failed to communicate our dietary wishes she said “my choice” with a big grin and made us a delicious fish and veg stir fry)

Our first Singha beer was served to us by a shy ladyboy in a touristy bar opposite sleazy Pat Pong. Some overhead cables burst into blue flames and worried looking girls in frilly bikini’s emerged from a nightclub. The flames died down the girls went back inside and life carried on.

Bangkok, Thailand. Wednesday 7th April

Photos to follow.

The mother of all early mornings

April 6, 2010

Without so much as a cup of tea, (well maybe a small one) we set off on bicycles at 4.30am and joined the trickle of tuk tuks and trucks on the long flat jungle road to Ankor. Cycling in the cool and dark was lovely and stumbling blindly through Ankor Wat was spooky but the actual sunrise was a damp squib. By 5.30 the temple was packed with coach parties all herded into the perfect photo taking position and clicking away.

We climbed the sunset viewing Bakheng to catch a bit more sunrise and generally wore ourselves out cycling past the Elephant Terrace, Bayon and Leper King Terrace, all bathed in morning glow then climbing another steep stepped Wat before cycling home for breakfast.

Siesta lasted from 10 till 3!

A very sweet tuk tuk driver took us on a little tour of three outlying temples. The first, Preah Khan, was a sprawling ramshackle jumble that we climbed through, finding torsos, linga’s and large feet down endless collapsing corridors. After each Wat stop we returned to our tuk tuk we found our man asleep in a tree, hammock or driving seat.

Back to plastic stools for a DIY street supper of roasted squid and prawns with veg and noodle soup. Fun to do but not so tasty.

Siem Reap, Cambodia. Tuesday 6th April

Photos to follow

Linga Longer

April 5, 2010

After miles of walking on bruised ankles and many more miles cycling on a flat tyre yesterday we took a tuk tuk today and visited some more distant sites.

Our first stop at the delicately carved Banteay Srey was spoiled by the mass of coach parties. The couple who had cycled for 3 hours to this remote spot must have been even more disappointed by the scrum.

Further on we walked for 45 minutes through the jungle to a river bed carved with hundreds of water worn linga (phallic symbols), crocodiles and gods.

As we were at the mercy of our grumpy tuk tuk driver we didn’t stay out till sunset but did climb an afternoon sun-lit wat back in Ankor Thom, high enough to be amongst a flock of green parakeets nesting in the treetops.

Drawn back to Pub Street again for supper where the restaurants promise more than they deliver. Tablecloths and wooden chairs instead of the plastic kiddie stools that we are used to but our veggie Khmer meal was bland.

Siem Reap, Monday 5th April

100 Wat burnout

April 4, 2010

Ankor Wat is indescribable in its magnificence and the words Mark used when he twisted his ankle on the uneven steps are unrepeatable.

He cheered up when a coffee wallah made us good coffee on her barbecue and hacked off a lump of ice to tie to his foot. After a t-shirt seller told him he looked 21, had a small nose and I looked like his mother he was walking on air and we managed another two hours Ankor Watting before lunch.

On to the wonderful hokey Bayon in the heat of the day when sensible tourists have a break (but great to have the temple virtually to ourselves) then the jungley Ta Prohm pretending to be explorers.

Our supper starter of unfried spring rolls looked as if it came from a pathology lab but was super fresh and tasty.

Siem Reap, Sunday 4th April

On the buses 2

April 3, 2010

Another long day crossing Cambodia by bus, arriving in Siem Riep with just enough time to rent bicycles and pedal to Ankor Wat for sunset. About 4km up the jungle road in fading light we realised that it was further than we thought and were probably on the wrong road anyway.

Back in Siem Riep we felt the irresistible pull of Pub Street and half price Ankor beer.

Siem Reap, Cambodia. Saturday 3rd April.

Amok at Ma Ma’s

April 2, 2010

Up and out of our dive before 7 and searching for a decent hotel. We were wrong to think that the grid system would make this easy as the numbered streets are not in any logical order. PP was built in the 1950’s so it all looks a bit like a Croydon or Purley shopping street with a London to Brighton scooter and bike rally continually going past.

Once checked into clean digs, fed at Ma ma’s and laundry dropped off went to the Royal Palace for more bling and Buddha’s and ran into the ubiquitous JP. Ma Ma’s supper didn’t quite match the lunchtime Amok, (Cambodian curried fish), but kept us hooked on Khmer cuisine.

Phonm Penh, Cambodia. Friday 2nd April.

On the buses

April 1, 2010

A promising start with “pick up from hotel” arriving in the form of a leaky boat pulling up on the rocks under our hut, a wet trouser leg boarding and a chug past palm tree islands to the bus stop.

The first bus took us to the border where we all had to gather our bags and cross on foot going from desk to desk. At every desk some extra dollars were gathered from each person to line the wallet of the official. A dollar for the exit stamp from Laos, a dollar to have your temperature taken and be given a leaflet about bird flu (advice was if you get a fever see a doctor), some extra dollars for the Cambodian visa and a final dollar for a stamp to enter Cambodia. At least the Cambodian official had the honesty to cheerfully admit that the dollar was for his family.

Once we had all crossed it was on to a new (well different) bus which took 3 hours more than the promised 10 hours, dropping us in Phonm Penh with just enough energy to pick a flea pit hotel on hideous backpacker hangout, Lakeside. Actually the lake is being filled in for more development so more like pond-side.

Phonm Penh, Cambodia. Thursday 1st April.

Anny’s restaurant

March 31, 2010

Looking for lunch after the Robinson Crusoe landing at Don Khon we found George and Elena, the rock climbers drinking fruit shakes at Anny’s Restaurant. We ordered curry soup and fried vegetables and waited and watched for half an hour or more as the two young women chefs chopped veg and pounded spices in the open kitchen, nipped down the road for more supplies, served us beer Lao and fed the baby.

I don’t know what was in the spice mix for the coconut curry soup but it was so sensational that we came back for three more meals here, working our way slowly through the menu, usually helped by G, E and JP. A very spicy fish Laap was another highlight but just as much fun was watching the cat eyeing up the fish as it was prepared. On the first evening the two Anny’s nipped into the shower as we ate, changed into pyjamas and started on the washing up. We took the hint and didn’t order pudding. It was all of 9.15pm!

Don Khon, Si Phan Don, Laos. Wednesday 31st March.

Photos to follow.