A Travellerspoint blog

August 2008

Leave You Hanging? Never

Back to Phnom Phen and Sihanoukville

rain 31 °C

Phew! What a trip! Kevin and I are now back in Los Angeles after an exciting 6 weeks in Southeast Asia and 1 week in Honolulu (Congratulations Justin on your graduation). Unfortunately, the last entry we posted was on August 2nd and therefore there are 10 days we did not share...or capture in words.

So, after Angkor Wat, we headed back to Phnom Phen for just a couple days. Both of us are really glad we did it. We arrived there in the afternoon, and this time, rather than staying near the river, we decided to stay in Central Phnom Phen near the big central market (perfect for shoppers of course). After resting from the relatively uneventful travel day (this is one of the few bus rides that was "easy")
Anyhow, we had dinner at the Foreign Correspondent's Club (recommendation from a friend) where we had an awesome meal and tasty drinks and then headed out to the Heart of Darkness. For those of you who have not been to Cambodia, I am sure you are wondering "What is the Heart of Darkness"? If you look it up in the Lonely Planet, it is described as this crazy place where all the rich Cambodian teenagers hang out. The book mentions that these "kids" have a tendency to start "trouble" with the Western tourists that try to hang out there. If we had only relied on Lonely Planet we might never have gone but Jeff had recommended we check it out and so we did. At 10pm, we grabbed a tuk tuk and headed out for our first "party" night.

Well, to cut a long predictable story short, the Heart of Darkness was not nearly so sinister. The scene can be described as follows: imagine a bunch of western tourists (our age and younger) mixed with some older, fatter male western tourists and a few conspicuous Cambodian prostitutes, all thrown to together on a dance floor with a lot of loud dance music. So, I am sure that all of my friends are thinking, ha, Michelle must have loved that, a loud crowded dance club. Well, I did. I had a great night and Kevin and I danced until about 2am...yes, that is incredibly late for me.
Second day in Phnom Penh started late and with a bit of frustration. We woke up, with the intention of going to the central market near our hotel. We figured we would grab breakfast first and then go shopping. Of course, there was not one place near our hotel or the market that served anything resembling a western breakfast (a.k.a.fried eggs and toast). So after about 45 minutes, we got in a tuk tuk and headed to the "Russian" central market and finished all of our purchases...many dvd's for $2 and few other items. (It really is not worth detailing all our money spending adventures here).

About 2pm that day we took a bus from Phnom Phen to the southern beaches of Cambodia (SihanoukVille). I think Kevin really provided the best description. Sihanoukville is basically a very small beach town (it is actually made up of four beaches, we stayed at Serendipity beach) that is a little less "developed" than Hoi An with a kind of Western influence. In many ways, it is easy to see how this small coastal down in Cambodia has the potential to become a larger vacation destination for back packers given the town's hip, laid-back energy, but the rich Europeans will always be more comfortable on the coast of Thailand. Let me see if I can paint you a better picture. I will start with our hotel and go from there.

The hotel was owned by an older, biker from Montana. He had lived in Thailand before deciding to open up this little boutique hotel. The hotel has about 20 rooms, a medium size swimming pool and has a restaurant that served some of the best mexican food in Southeast Asia (it might be the only place in Southeast Asia that served mexican food) and a good size cup of coffee with tasty breakfast menu options (apparently westerners like to have baked beans with their eggs and bacon, who knew?).
Next store was a very yummy Japanese teppanyaki type restuarant and a few doors the other way was a little "movie" theatre where you could watch some great DVD's in a room similar to a cozy living room, cold beer, couch and all.

While the town could be described as small and quaint, it has a very "vibrant" nightlife. The "bars" stay open until late (4am) and if you are looking for some late night munchies there is a guy that grills hot dogs at a small "convenience" store conveniently located next to our hotel. (I should note that the town is not only good for drinking but other "mind" blowing activities). We also found a monthly newsletter that describes is sort of like a mini guide book for Sihanoukville visitors. It includes: "Things to do during the rainy season", "How to bargain with your tuk-tuk driver" and "ways to prevent dehydration...more than just water".

While we spent most of our time lounging and relaxing, we had a few interesting adventures. The first day we took a "crazy" ride down to Otres beach. (Let me qualify crazy by saying that the road that we traveled to get to this particular beach was probably typical of most of the roads in Cambodia; rocky, full of land mine "holes", and, because it was the rainy season, incredibly muddy). Our plan was to walk along the beach and hang out for a bit, but 30 minutes in a rainstorm, that can best be described as a monsoon, came through the area. We found shelter and food at a place along the beach and waited out the storm. We might have hung out there longer but we and our food were being "attacked" by flies.

The next day we went and walked through the main town and had a "blind" massage. (All the masseuses were blind....and it was honestly one of the best massages I had). The remainder of our time was spent being lazy and watching the Olympic opening ceremony (very cool except for the fact that the commentary was in either Chinese or Thai so aside from the procession of athletes we had no idea what was happening). We were in Sihanoukville for about 3 days total, until August 9th and then we headed off to Bangkok...and like a Jamacian from track and field, I will hand the baton to Kevin to provide a happy ending to this part of our adventure.

Posted by charley08 14:39 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

"Brillant" Bus Ride and Ruins

From Laos to Cambodia and a taste of Angkor Wat


Hi guys...
We cannot believe that we are writing you this email on the 2nd of August (yes I know it is the 4th today but just pretend). Only 10 more days and our journey through southeast asia will be finished. We are certainly a bit sad but at the same time we really have had a wonderful time and we know there will be more travelling like this in the future. There is just so much of the world to see.

Okay so where to begin.
Why don't we start with the bus ride to Phnom Phen. Okay that was a nightmare. Our journey began at 8am that morning. We boarded a boat to take us from our island to the main island. We got on a bus. We drove for 45 minutes and we stopped at a small shack on the side of the road only to realize we were at the Laos Department of Immigration. We submitted our departure card and then walked in between two gates (not Laos not Cambodia but no man's land). We found our second shack which was the visa office, the department of immigration and the bus stop for Cambodia.

During this process, our Laos bus dropped our stuff on the street and drove away. Another bus arrived and we drove yet another hour (it is now about 11am) to another town in Cambodia (strung treng)...it was apparently lunch time, for an hour and a half. Again our bags were taken out of the bus and we boarded yet another bus (only this one had no floor...i shit you not, a girls flip flops actually melted due to heat coming up from the engine or whatever below the minibus)

So now we are off (1:30 pm) on our way no more stops PP here we come. Not quite. at 3:30 pm we stopped again for another 1 hour. Our stop this time was in Kratie another Cambodian town. At this point we just wanted to get there already but instead we sat for another hour (mind you we had not really eaten anything substantial since breakfast). Okay so another bus arrives at 4:30 we board and then it was another 6 hours before we reach PP (so let me review we left at 8am and we arrived in PP at 10:30 or so with no hotel.
We learned quickly that hotels in PP do not stay open for 24 hours we ended up driving around in a tuk tuk and finally found a relatively cheap place to stay for a couple night.

So yes, the process of getting to PP was a bit painful but the city itself is actually quite cool. The next morning we headed off to the old Khmer Rouge prison. (It was a very very sad place.) Pictures of the dead adorn the walls and their skulls and torture chambers are still in place (we saw a movie prior to touring the site) I am not sure words can do the horror justice. It was terrible. Nearly 2 million Cambodians were exterminated during this period.
Then we were off to the Killing Fields (the place outside PP where they took the people to be executed) (Remember this atrocity happened between 1975 to 1979 so everything is still in place or remnants of the dead remain alive in this field (their clothing, bone fragments and skulls) It was again another stop I am not sure I can do justice to.
From there we had lunch (what our stomachs could handle) and then I went and rode an elephant (yes, me on an elephant.) It was practice for when we go to africa ;-) (for all of you wondering, Kevin wimped out...since I am entering this blog post I have the right to make fun of him)

Okay then to the central markets which is basically a maze of booths selling everything you can imagine (DVDs, food, kashmir scarfs, tea sets) all to be bargained for. It is bustling and hectic and if you spend too much time there you could go crazy)
So we finished up the day and had the plan set to head to Siem Reap and then head off to a Thai beach...but we changed our minds. We had enjoyed our day and we truly were rushing through Cambodia so we made the executive decision to eat (possibly...we are trying to dispute the charges) our 450 tickets to Ko Samui and are going to go back to Phnom Phen, explore a bit more and then take a ride down to the beaches of Cambodia for a couple days.
Today (August 2nd), we had our first of three trips to Angkor Wat. Unfortunately, the rainy season hit hard today so it was wet and muddy and definitely no so great for picture taking. Needless to say, we could still get a sense for the enormity and beauty of this ancient place. Again there are some sights that defy words or pictures but when we get home we will try our best. The bad news is that i slipped and fell and believe i sprained my foot. I refuse to not see Angkor Wat so we will be moving and hiking slowly through the temples.
So that is story for now.

Now I am fast forwarding to August 4th (no comments from the readers please) Today was/is our last day in Siem Reap. We saw 18 temples in Angkor Wat over our 3 days. All of them were spectacular in their own way. I am not going to speak for Kevin, but my favorite was this temple about 20 km from Angkor Wat called Bataey Srei. It was a small temple but the stone carvings that adorned the walls made it the most lovely of them all. I took over 200 pictures of Angkor Wat (which means Kevin took about 550 or so plus video), we will see how well my pictures come out...Kevin''s will be spectacular.

I seriously wish I could do this all justice in words but it is impossible to capture the scale, the intricacies, and the sheer manpower it would take to create these things over 1000 years ago.

We did buy a book to help guide us through the temples on our second day (which unlike the first was not nearly as rainy) and that helped. It was like a mini adventure in each temple trying to understand the purpose of each temple and the meanings and stories behind each carving. I guess that was the most magical part (for Michelle at least). Each carving was a story and had some significance. It was like reading a book with pictures carved in a wall.
In any case, after our 18 temples we are now chilling out for the next few hours and then will head off to dinner, sleep, wake up early and get back on a bus to head to Phnom Phen.
More adventures to come...
Kevin and Michelle

Posted by charley08 02:11 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

The 4000 Islands

Living a Life of Luxury in Laos

all seasons in one day

Amazingly we found an internet cafe on the 4000 islands. of course there is no hot water and electricity lasts about 4 hours each evening but yes there is internet...funny. So let me see if i can give you a brief summary of what has been happening here.

So we left pakse on the 26th in the morning and took a 2 hour bus ride to the islands. While we did not really realize it at the time, it was going to be the people on the bus that would make this part of our trip.

We arrived on the island and found a guest house that is literally sitting right on the mekong. our balcony / deck or whatever sits on the water. it has two beds, a private bathroom, and a fan that only works when the electricity is on...it was totally nice compared to other options. (oh and it is only a cold shower) So as i was saying the best part of this portion of our adventures were the people we met.

There were a total of 7 of us.
pete; a british guy travelling on his own with a 'brillant' sense of humor
John and Greg: brothers from a town outside manhattan who bought bikes in Vietnam and have been riding the country side of Laos. (They were to youngest of our group 19 and 21)
mitch: totally unsuspecting guy from new york. he comes across as kind of sleazy but he is incredibly cool. he has travelled all over the world. teaches 5th grade kids. loves to compete in triatholons and climbs the crazy mountains you read about in books. he has been in africa (tanzania) mongolia etc.
John;: another british dude that has been teaching at international schools (history) around the world. (He spent a while in Africa and will end up in Hong Kong this year)
Kevin and Michelle (that rounds out the group)

Activity: not much to do here on the island. We took a bike ride the first day we were here. one i hardly remember how to ride a bike and two it was not the leisurely bike ride we were expecting...it was an experience that has to be told about in person.

We took two walks: one yesterday to see this waterfall that is the largest waterfall by volume in southeast asia (it was pretty cool) and today we headed over to another island (Don Dhet) to check it out, use the internet and figure out what we are going to be doing for the next two weeks, which changes constantly so i am not even going to bother writing it here...
Sorry for no updated pictures but the upload time is just freaking ridiculous. No comment invisman
Michelle and Kevin

Posted by charley08 02:05 Archived in Laos Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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