Wednesday, 29 April 2009

So that was Cambodia...

Cambodia was a lovely place to visit and I think that's all I have to say on the place. It was a whistle stop tour of the country but I certainly gained an insight into the psyche of the people and I learned a lot!

I'm in Vietnam now and have been for a few days. I'm moving to Hanoi tomorrow and will update you with the details of my Vietnam adventures very soon. But for now I've been sat in front of this computer for too long and I'm off for a drink!

A x

Cambodian Smiles, 24 April 2009

Everyone in Cambodia smiles a lot.

It is lovely and it makes Cambodia a lovely place to travel around.

A night at the Roller Disco, 23 April 2009

For the last night of the Fab 4 (Me, Emma, Chris and Hannah) we decided an evening of roller skating was in order. So we strapped on some roller blades and joined in with the Cambodian kids.

The kids were amazing with their jumps and speed. Very impressive.

My 'second ankles' were ripped to shreds within minutes from the cheap and skanky skates.

It was still good fun though even if a little painful.

Fine dining in Cambodia, 23 April 2009

The food in Cambodia is yum! My favourite is Fish Amok. It is beautiful and full of coconut-ty goodness.

The Khmer Rouge on trial, 23 April, 2009

Out Tuk Tuk driver told us on the way home from S-21 that we could go visit Duch (the chairman of S-21 in prison). We politely declined, none of us wanted to peer in through a cell window and look at the man who did all of this. After a little bit more chat we realised that the tuk tuk driver meant court, not jail.

Of course, the Khmer Rouge trials were in session at the moment (I had seen it on the news a few weeks earlier). This I wanted to see. I felt that by going to watch the trial in action I would be able to satisfy my desire for justice for the Cambodian people.

It was just Hannah and I that went to court to watch the trial. We were both a little apprehensive in the tuk tuk. What would this be like? Would we be frowned upon as tourists? Would there be any Cambodians there? What were we letting ourselves in for?

It was failry simple to get into the court. Only my tiger balm and gum were confiscated by the security guards.

I was overwhelmed as I walked into the viewing gallery. There were around 250 cambdians seated, waiting for the trial to begin. We found out from an usher that most of the people had left their viallages at 2am and piled into buses and pick uup trucks just to be present at the trial and witness the proceedings. Cambodians old and young were say on the edge of their seats waiting for the morning session to commence. Every single person was sat there wearing the traditional Cambodian scarf, the clutched them as they waited. From what I'd seen the previous day I couldnt understand why Cambodians still wore these scarves. Other than black pajamas the traditional scarf was the only thing that people were permitted to wear under the regime. It made me view them as symbols of opppression so I couldn't understand how thye could still wear them. People smiled at us as we entered and looked upon us with kindness.

We were given a headset (everything was translated into Khmer, French and English) and lots of papers detailing all the details of the trial so far and mini biographies of the lawyers and barristers involeved.

The Court opened and Duch sat in the seat to be questions - sorry, i don't know any legal jargon - witness box maybe?

Thorughout the morning session Duch (the former chairman of S 21) looked at neither the camera or the judges. His sunken dark eyes fixed on an empty spot in the court and he answered the questions he was asked. Duch's face was heavily line, it had witnessed so much. It had inflicted so much.

The morning session lasted 2 hours and I was gripped. Questions included the hierarchy of power in S-21, the structure of S-21, how Duch had become chairman.

The most poignant question asked by the prosecution was this: "What was the purpose of S-21?" Duch answered slowly: "S-21 was for torture... interrogation... detaining... and... smashing... by which I mean killing." It wasn't as if I didn't know that this was the purpose of S-21, but hearing it from the horses mouth made me ache inside. I had the chills all over. It really wasn't a suprise, but he said these words with great calmness.

I left the trial satisfied. It is taking a long time for those involved in the Khmer Rouge to be brought to justice, but justice is being sought and will eventually be granted. I hope for the sake of the Cambodian people who suffered that justice will be granted soon. I was so happy to see Cambodias turning out with such presence seeking their desrved justice.

During the court I also realsied something very important. the scarves. The poeple were not letting themselves be oppressed by the scarves, the scarves predated the oppressive regime og the khmer rouge, and the people kept their scarves as symbols as national pride to refute the oppression they once suffered. As a nation united the cambodian people were not going to remain downtrodden by their history.

Face to face with Cambodian history, 22 April 2009

Just a few days ago I witnessed the jewels of Cambodia at Angkor Wat. These National Treasures were just spectacular and it is clear why the Cambodians hold them up with such pride. Today, I witnessed something that was as far away from the splendid temples as possibly imaginable.

I had read a bit about Cambodian history online before coming away, but I didn;t really take it in. There were too many names I had never heard of, and it was all too alien.. Watching the documentray yesterday was interesting but I still didn' really understand everything fully. But today, all the bits and pieces that I had gleaned from the internet and the documentary became very clear. Very clear.

At 8.30 this morning myself, Hannah and Chris pulled up in our Tuk Tuk at Choeung Ek Genocidal Centre (Emma was still ill).

We made our way thorugh the ticket barriers and were pulled straight towards the Stupa. None of us said a word to each other, the three of us just walked in silence up to the white monument. The only noise to be heard was the noise of children playing in the school playground next to the site. In side the stupa was a glass tower containg 9000 skulls. Instanly chills ran all over my body. 9000 people were tortured and killed at this site less than 35 years ago.

We walked around the site. The ground was uneven with lots of shallow craters. Each crater was a mass grave. The bigger graves were highlighted and signs displayed the number of people who were buried in each grave. The mass graves were tiny, but they still held a hundred or so bodies.

As we walked around the site we started to notice scarps of clothing embedded in the earth. Those scraps were once clothes. My stomach and heart wrenched when beneath the tree roots i noticed bone poking out of the ground. Human bone.

It was all horrendous. There was one part called "The Punishment Tree". This was where children, yes children, were beaten. There were bone remains at the base of the tree.

The site was kept a secret and great lengths were taken to ensure that locals farmers didn't find out what was going on. DDT was spread over the dead bodies to remove the rotting smell (it was also used to kill people, a slow, painful, rotting death). They also palyed loud sounds to drown out the screams. And instead of using guns that made loud noises, they used pickaxes, hoes, and heavy blunt objects to bludgeon people to death.

Who were the people who were killed here? They were all people who were considered to be enemies of the Khmer Rouge. Some were killed just because they were intellectuals, others becuase they wore glasses. Even if someone wasn't an enemy of the Khmer Rouge, if they were just suspected as being enemies, they were still killed.

9000 people were killed at Choueng Ek, around 2million were killed in Cambodia.

Back in the tuk tuk none of us could speak. I was angry that I didn't know anything about all this. I cursed my histroy textbooks that were full of Hitler and little else more. Everything I had learnt had sunk in. Suddenly the names Pol Pot, Khmer Rouge, and Democratic Kampuchea all fitted in to place and the harrowing history of Cambodia was real to me.

S-21 was our next port of call. It used to be a high school. The Khmer Rouge turned it into a prison, a plcae of interrogation, a place of torture, a place of murder.

My stomach was wrenched the whole way round this former prison. The first block consisted of cells. Each cell was empty except for a hard iron bed (there had never been a mattress) and iron shackles. In each room was a large black and white photo of a prison inmate shcakled and tied to the bed. In some pictures the prisoners had raw marks on their chests where they had been lashed.

Before we entered the second block we came across some gym apparatus that would have been used in the school to do chin-up excercises. In the Prisonm these frames became a torture device where men were hung upside down during interrogations. When the victims passed out they were dippe din vile, rotting water full of hoirrible things to revive them.

Inside the second block we came face to face with the victims. At S-21 every prisoner that entered was photographed. We walked thorugh so many rooms and saw so many faces of so many victims. Some had empty, vacant expressions. Some had eyes filled with absolute terror. Others looked scared. Some looked defiant. A couple smiled. Some opf the men had bandages on their faces - they most have been beaten before they were photographed. All the women had their hair in the same bobbed cut. One woman had a baby in her ar,ms. There were ophotos of children too, some of the kids were no older than 5. All of these people were deemed 'enemies' of the Khmer Rouge. All of them were interrogated, tortured and detained at this site. There were thousands of photos.

OVer lunch the three of us reflected on what we had seen. We all agreed it was all so unjust. I looked out on the street and I noticed an old woman. If i had seen her the day before, i wouldnt have thought anything about it, but at that moment, having seen all that i had seen, I saw the old lady in sucha different light. She would have worked on a co-operative, toiling in the heat in an attempt to meet the unrealistic rice quotas set by in the genocide. Aware of the recent history of Cambodia I started to see the older Cambodians in a very different light.

After l unch the prison was quieter. We walked around musing our thoughts and feelings between us. The third block was separated into tiny cells. Tiny, smaller than the area of a single bed. Each cell had a chain that was cemented into the floor and a jug for the toilet.

Upstairs in this blokc was a fascianting photo exhibition by a Swede who had been given priviledged access into Cambodia under the rule of the Khmer ROuge. Cambodia closed its borders in this period so no one in the outside world kenw what was going on. There were rumours that dreadfull things were happening to the people. The khmer rouge organised the trip which the Swede attended for Propaganda pursposes.

The Swedish man's photos were displayed in the exhibition and alongside each photo were his thoughts at the time, and his thoughts now. He was impressed with what he found in Cambodia. He found a country where communism was working, people working on farms were happy, people were working together successfully and everything was prosperous. It became clear in hindsight that everything he had seen had been staged. There was a real sense of guilt in his words, he felt guilty that he had not seen thoruhg the facade. He had gotten so caught up in this idealistic communist reality.

Another exhibition was on those who were lost in the regime, those who disappeeared without a travce. Another exhibitoion recounted the stories of the people who worked at S-21 and how they re-established their lives after the Khmer Rouge regime collapsed. All of those who worked in S-21 were imprisoned once order was restored. As much as these pople had murdered and tortured so many innocent victims, it was hard to see them as anything but victims themselves. They were no older than 15 when they were committing these acts of torture and interrogation, they were told what to do and did it out of fear for their own lives.

It was an Emotional day. I left with so much anger, so many questions and my heart felt so much for all the Cambodian people. My heart longed that justice would be granted to them soon.

Jim Jams, 21 April 2009

Now, I love pajamas. I love them loads. I can quite happily wear them all day if I'm not going out the house.

But the Cambodian women love them more than I do.

Seriosuly, so many women were out and about in PJs. And not just pj bottoms and tops, nope, proper button up pj tops and proper pj bottoms. Some had long sleeves, some had short sleeves. Most were floral. Younger women wore Snoopy or Hello Kitty jim jams. Some wore them with flip flops, others with crocs, some, with high heels!

I loved it, but I didn't join in with the trend.

Phnom Penh, 21 April 2009

Emma was sick in bed today so I spent the day having a walk around the city of Phnom Penh.

The city isn't really made for walking. It's all about motorbikes, scoooters, tuk tuks and cars. There are very few pedestrians.

I had been forced to take a scooter when we arrived at Phnom Penh bus depot (there were no taxis in sight, and we were too far away to walk to the guest house area). Taking a scooter was horrendous. The roads were a nightmare, and there were so many occasions when we were on the wrong side of the road with a load of traffic coming towards us. So I figured walking would be a safer way to explore.

Well, I don't really know if they were any safer, but at least I was in control. I had to be alert the whole time. You may have a green man at a pedestrian crossing, but that doesn't necessarily you have the freedom to cross the road. Oh no, the motorbikes keep coming!

It was a bit chaotic at first but I soon got used to it. Where there wasn't a pedestrain crossing I found a local crossing the road and traversed with them. BY the end of the day I was a pro. And I had Phnom Penh under my belt.

Phnom Penh is a bit of a funny one. Despite spending 4 days there I still don't know the official pppronunciation, everyone - including the Cambodians - said it differently "Nom Penh" "Per-nom Penh" "Fh-nom Penh". I guess it's a game of tomayto/tomarto.

My city tour of of Phnom Penh took me all over. The first stop was the Central Market followed by Phnom Wat (the highest point in PP at 22metres high!), followed by a stroll along the river, past the Palace and Silver Pagoda.

To escape the rain which kept trying to start I watched a documentary on the history of Cambodia. Given that my Cambodian history was not up to scratch I found it all very interesting.

The whole route was bustling. There were people everywhere, cars everywhere, life everywhere. I love busy cities.

Here are some of the things that I noticed/tried on my walk:

Chowk - at least, I think that's what it's called. Anyway a chowk is a cross between a nut and a fruit and a vegetable (if that's possible). It grows in a weird pod and you squeeze the seeds/nut out and eat them. The first one wasn't very nice, the lady hadn't told me you weren't supposed to eat the skin. The second was better as I ate it without the skin.

Oyster - again, it wasn't really an oyster, more a shell with some type od seafood inside. It was good. Real good.

Ghetto Blasters - they were everywhere in one area. PP is one of those places where every street sells the same thing. i.e. an area for just TVs, an area for just ghetto blasters and even an area for gold fish. The Ghetto Blasters were most impressive becase of their sheer size! They were beasts!

Customise your phone/lap top stalls - at school we used to have to cover our books in clear sticky back plastic laminate stuff, in PP they used multicoloured laminate stuff on everything... pphones, lap tops could all be customised to be bright colours or even patterned with animal prints. Very cool!

Monkeys

Elephant - a very sad looking elechant tied up near Phnom Wat. I felt sorry for the elephant.

Pavements - the other thing i noticed in PP was the pavements. They had no purpose for facilitating walking for pedestrians. Nope, instead they offered parking for bikes and cars, overflow space for shops to display their wares and more space for more red plastic chair cafes. This made walking around a little tricky.

After a day wandering around I decided I liked Phnom Penh.

Right where was I...

Ok, so I'm stuck in an internet cafe waiting for the rain to ease off so let's pick up where I left off with Cambodge!

Monday, 27 April 2009

I'm gunna log off now...

Now I know I still have a lot more to write about Cambodia, and I've just discovered some words I wrote about Thailand that I'm yet to publish, but I've got a night bus to catch in an hour and I need some dinner first.

The good news is that it is moving into the Vietnamese wet season, so this will give me plenty of chance to move indoors on to the internet so I can get this blog up to date! Also, it costs like 20pence for an hour on the internet here which is INSANE!

So have no fear avid readers, the rest of Cambodia will be here shortly, and I'll finish off Thailand, and maybe I'll even tell you a bit about the wonderful world of Vietnam!

A x

One Dollar, 19 April, 2009

Everything in Siem Reap costs "One Dollar".

Plate of noodles with chicken/pork/beef - $1
Ten postcards - $1
Bottle of water at Angkor Wat - $1
Breakfast - $1
A bed in a dorm room - $1
A little handbag in the shape of an elephant - $1
Beer - $1

It's like one big dollar store.

Children of Angkor, 19 April, 2009

One of the most difficult things about Angkor is the children. At most of the temples there are children there trying to sell postcards, bracelets, books, flutes. As soon as you get out of your tuk-tuk you hear them cry "3 Bracelets, 1 Dollar", "1 Flute, 1 Dollar" " Ten Postcards, 1 Dollar".

At Angkor Wat there are loads of kids and they like to strike up a bit of banter. They all knew that Gordon Brown was the prime minister of the UK, and they knew of Tony Blair, John Major, Margaret Thatcher. There English was brilliant.

But at the smaller temples the kids were more desperate as they don't get as many tourists. They started off with "One Flute, One Dollar", but as you walked past they quickly changed their offer to "Three Flute, One Dollar". They were really desperate and it was horrible to see.

Twelve Hours of Temples, 19 April, 2009

3.45am is an un-godly time to set an alarm for. Un-godly. But we wanted to see Angkor Wat at sun rise, so it had to be done.

We had already done the sun set at Angkor Wat the previous evening after buying our tickets*. It was a pretty amazing sun set and the backdrop was pretty special. We didn't explore Angkor Wat itself vastly, but we had a taster that really whet our appetite for the next day.

So there we were 4.30am waiting for our tuk-tuk driver. Just like at the Taj Mahal, I was getting antsy that we were going to miss the sunrise! He appeared at 4.50am and we zipped down the roads to Angkor Wat.

The sun rise was better than the sun set, as it rises from behind Cambodia's iconic temple. The sun rise was beautiful, one of the best we've seen yet! It was pretty dramatic with 1000 (almost) year old temple.

Angkor Wat is most definitely Cambodia's most iconic temple (it appears on the flag, the beer and the water), but for me it was not the most impressive temple. I mean, it was impressive, hugely impressive, but what followed went above and beyond to a whole other level.

Our second temple of the day was my favourite. Ta Prohm is a crumbling warren of stones, lichen and over growing trees. Every turn you take you feel like you are going somewhere that no one else has ever been before. Unlike at Angkow Wat there were only a few sign posts, so there was nothing to spoil the site. And, given that it was still only 6.30am it was free from the hoards of tourists that would have ascended later in the day.

It was also strangely spiritual. Angkor Wat hadn't really felt particularly spiritual, but this place was so different. It was calm, serene and you could definitely find inner peace or enlightenment there if you wished.

The piles of crumbling rocks, the sprawling trees, I could have spent all day there exploring.

But, there were more temples to see so we had to crack on.

Ta Keo is the lego brick temple. It is very blocky and very tall. We made the steep ascent up the stone steps all the way to the top. This was a real "I'm the king of the castle place." We were higher than the trees and up in the wind. It was incredible for such an old temple. As we wandered around we found a shady, breezy spot, and the four of us had a sleep. An hour later we woke up suitably refreshed and raring for the next temple. It was a really good spot for a snooze, but pretty surreal waking up on a 1000 year old temple, above the trees, with blue skies above and a cooling breeze. Bliss.

We then toured two more smaller temples that were in their own way just as impressive as the other big temples.

Then, we hit Angkor Thom.

Angkor Thom is more of a complex of temples and terraces and we spent a good few hours here admiring it all and taking it all in. By this point it was hot, and getting hotter, so we were only too happy to take it slow. We tended to move from shady breezy spot to shady breezy spot as we took in the glory of the Elephant Terrace, Bayon and the Palace of the Leper King.

After the Angkor Thom complex we made our way to Ban Team Kdei. But we didn't get very far. We walked to the entrance, walked trhough the entrance found a nice shady spot with a breeze and gave in. We were 'templed' out. It was 2.30pm and we had been on the go since 4.30am.

A little boy came to try and sell us a flute. He entertained us for a while as he showed his ability to play the flute with his nose. Chris and the boy had a little jamming session with these random reed instruments that Chris had bought.

Once we mustered the strength to move on, we left him and found our tuk-tuk. He was keen to take us to the next temple but there was a resounding no from us all.

This is all sounding a bit negative. It's not supposed to. The temples at Angkor are massive, they're amazing and incredible. I had a wonderful day, but you really can have too much of a good thing!

By 4pm I was fast asleep in my bed dreaming of all the wonderful sites I had seen in the day.

*Tip for anyone who goes to Angkor Wat: Buy your ticket the day before you want to go from 4.30pm at the ticket office. Your ticket is not only valid for the next day, but also until 5.30pm on the day of purchase. Although the temples officially close at 5.30pm it is pretty easy to linger until after sun down. So you get a bonus hour in the temples!

Cambodia: thoughts on... 16 April, 2009

We arrived yesterday morning at the Laos/Cambodia border (15th April). And by 12 noon we were on the bus making our way to Ban Lung.

The first thing I noticed about Cambodia was the roads. The journey was bumpy, incedibly bumpy. In fact, I don't think I've ever been on a road that is quite so bumpy.

We arrived in Ban Lung 5 hours later than anticipated - I'd say it was a sign of things to come, but it wasn't really. Our arrival was welcomed with a lot of fully booked guest houses - it was Cambodian New Year! It took a while but we eventually found a room for the four of us and at a pretty good price too.

Once we had dumped our bags and spent a good ten minutes admiring the spectacularly large cockroach in our bathroom we headed to join in with the New Year Celebrations.

So there we were expecting a big ole party and we rocked up at the Cambodian equivalent of a summer fete. There were food stalls set up, games to play (popping balloons with darts - I was rubbish), and a bit of a disco tent which had a pinata. It was really busy with people and everyone was just enjoying themselves. We grabbed some dinner and a beer and headed to watch the pinata. I have to say, it did look a little dangerous, this pinata was not made from bog rolls and tissue paper... oh no, terra cotta pots... that shattered everywhere.

We had a nice walk round and people were really excited to see us there joining in with the fun. Some even dared to say "Hello" to us. We all instantly fell in love with the people.

Then, at 11pm, it all stopped. The music stopped, everyone started packing up, and everyone made their way out, it was over.

New Year in Cambodia is a bit confusing. Like in Laos and Thailand it's a three day event, and no one has been able to tell us when it's New Year's Day and when it's New Year's Eve. In a two day event you don't have this problem, but in a three day event it is a cause for confusion.

Today (16 April), we went to a Volcanic Lake and a couple of Waterfalls. It has been a brilliant day. Because of the New Year malarkey everyone has a public holiday so all the Cambodian families were out enjoying themselves at the Lake and Waterfalls too. It always adds a different element when you visit these beautiful places on a weekend or holiday. During the week they are normally quite quiet, but they really come to life at the weekend as the locals are out to enjoy themselves as well.

The people watching at the lake was briillliant. Everyone was on top form celebrating. Mums, dads, boys and girls, people of all ages bombing, diving and bellyflopping into the lake, fully clothed! The place was buzzing!

It was a great way to see the Cambodian people enjoying themselves. They loved it when we jumped into the lake and watched us swim with great fascination.

The Lake itself was a little disappointing, we expected to find a rough craggy volcano with steam, lava and everything. But this volcano was topped with green trees and bushes. But despite all that the day was awesome!

Let the tales of Cambodia begin...

I only spent eight days in Cambodia, but they were an incredible eight days. They were fun-filled, wonderous and emotional. Here it goes...

One more thing about Laos before I tell you tales of Cambodia

A Traditional Laos BBQ

When you leave Laos it is impossible to change any currency you have left. So on our last night in Don Det it was perfectly justifiable to splurge on dinner.

First of all a heavy pot filled with hot charcoals was brought to our table, then a funky little device was brought to put on top of the charcoals. It was a bit like a lemon squeezer... it had a rim for liquids and a dome for placing meat on. Then came the raw meat, the raw noodles, the raw veg and the broth.

We did have to wait over an hour for it to come, this was a bit of a joke considering it was all raw!

We poured the broth into the rim and that came to the boil and cooked the veg and noodles all lovely and juicy. Then we had the meat on the top grilling away.

It was amazing.

The meat was perfectly cooked.

Such an awesome way to eat! I've since seen the same thing advertised as a traditional Cambodian BBQ also.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Right here, right now... 24 April, 2009

So, you guessed it, it's another little catch up blog where i tell you the essence of what i've been up to the last few days. But, have no fear I've been doing lots of writing in my Penguin Classics Notebook and I be will typing it up as soon as I have the time.

15/4 - Enter Cambodia arrive aat Ban Lung
16/4 - Waterfalls and Swimming in a Volcanic Lake
17/4 - Bus journey to Siem Reap
18/4 - A day in Siem Reap (SHOPPING)
19/4 - Temples, temples, temples at Angkor Wat
20/4 - Bus trip to Phnom Penh
21/4 - A day of walking in Phnom Penh
22/4 - A day of sadness with Killing Fields and Detention Centres
23/4 - A day in court watching the Khmer Rouge Trial - An afternoon at the palace - Roller Blading
24/4 - Bus Trip to Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam).

So, yip there's the bear bones. Emma is still in Cambodia and the two of us will be meeting up again in China in two weeks. Right now I have Happy Hour Cocktails calling my name... so I best be off. Ciao. x

Monday, 20 April 2009

Cabbages and Condoms - April 8, 2009

Or is it called Condoms and Cabbages? Either way the initiative is brilliant.

While stayin in Pattaya Wendy and Gary took me for dinner at their local Condoms and Cabbages restaurant. Located in a gorgeous boutique hotel (The Birds and the Bees) on the beach the setting was perfect.

Walking to the restaurant from the hotel foyer made me all warm and fuzzy with lovely little mantras about being nice, respectful, kind and loving. I was glowing inside at the sheer loveliness. Then, we reached the green full of the fluffiest, whitest bunny rabbits that I have ever seen.

The restaurant itself was built up into the trees and decorated fabulously with condoms.

The condom lightshades were brilliant. But the ebst bit were the shop mannequins who were dressed in outfits made totally from condoms and packs of the contraceptive pill. There was even a santa made of a million red jonnies. (I just have to sort out the photo situation, i promise to dedicate some time when I'm in Oztralia.)

The food was divine. And the mango and sticky rice was delightful too. It was such a treat after a lot of fried noodles.

Instead of after dinner mints, you could take after dinner condoms. Brilliant.

But what is this place? What's the deal with all the condoms?

Well, the founder of cabbages and condoms set up the first restaurant in Bangkok in order to raise money to educate the Thai people about sexual health. From small acorns massive oak trees have grown. There are severall restaurants in Thailand as well as the amazing hotel. And because of the success the chain now raises moeny for schools, tsunmi victims and many other wrthwhile charities across thailand.

The essential goal of the organisation was to make sexual health awareness and condoms as readily availbale as cabbages. Which is a truly admirable mission.

I can't believe I'm still finding things to write about India

We left India over a month ago, and it's crazy that I'm still finding things to write about it.

But I guess that for the last few months I have been experiencing so many new and different things on a daily basis that it will take a while for things to absorb.

I can imagine that I'll still be writing blog posts on here months I get home, telling even more untold stories.

Dhobi Ghat, Mumbai - March 17, 2009

I can't beleive I never wrote about this incredible sight before.

Literally, this is the biggest laundrette ever.

Around 3000 people live and work at this outdoor laundry. Every day, the Dhobis wash all the washing from Mumbai's hotels and hospitals, by hand.

There are so many baths in this one sight, each with a bath and what is known as a floggin stone, where men beat the washing to clean out all the dirt.

The most incredible part of this whole scene are the whites. As they dry on the lines the white linen literally sparkles with clean. I don't think Daz has a patch on it.

Eye Brow Threading - 18th March 2009

It's something I've always wanted to try, so where better place than Mumbai.

It cost less that a pound.

It took less than 3 minutes.

It didn't hurt any more than waxing.

The results were impressively neat. Very neat.

I was one happy customer.

There will be video to go with the post at some point, maybe in Oz.

The Taj Mahal - 15th February 2009

When I was about four or five we had some Indians come to dinner.

There was quite a big fuss before the Indians arrived. No one in the family had ever had Indians to tea before. I had a friend from nursery who was Indian, but this was different. These were real Indians from India, visiting on business involving my Dad's company.

I don't really remember much of the night. I just remember the fuss and the build up, and... the presents.

The presents were for the whole family and they have been treaured in the Harrison household ever since.

A brass peacock (this is gathering dust in a drawer as mum doesn't really like peacocks), a red velvet bag with a peacock in beads and sequins (i still use this as a handbag!), a wooden elephant and a tea light holder made from marble in the shape of the Taj Mahal.

At the age of five I remember thinking that the Taj Mahal was the mst beautiful thing that I had ever seen. The marble was so white it reminded me of my brother's christening cake and at first I was determined to eat it.

The white marble was painted most delicately with intricate patterns like those on the real thing. The pink and grey patterns were just incredible. It was just so beautiful.

The Taj Mahal Tea Light Holder was pride of place on the sideboard in the dining room.

Everyone, family and friends, came over to admire it.

Of course, Dad had to make some alterations to the Taj Mahal... the spikes on top of the four minarets were deemed a hazard and were duly filed down to avoid any incidents.

When we moved down south, the Taj came with us and took a more modest place in mum and dad's bedroom where it still is now.

From the age of 5 I've had great expectations of the Taj Mahal. If a scaled down replica could be so beautiful, the real real thing must be spectacular.

I had two fears about India: firstly, that I would be let down by the taj mahal in real life, and secondly, that the treasured Taj Mahal tea light holder would be a ten-a-penny tacky souvenir available from every wallah in Agra.

Both fears were unfounded.

We woke at 5am to see the Taj at sunrise. Our keenness meant that we were third in the queue at the West Gate. However, the sun was well on its way up before they started letting people in. BUt it didn't really matter that the sunrise was practically over by the time we got inside. I was in total awe.

From aafar it was everything i hoped it woiuld be. Perfectly beautiful. And as we got closer it just got more and more specatular as you could see the fine intricate gems and jewels inlaid in the crisp white marble.

After we had taken in the sheer magnificence we set up the typical tourist shot where you hold it in your finger tips. Brilliantly tacky.

Outside the taj there were souvernir wallahs everywhere. Fridghe magnets, snowdomes, postcards... Taj Mahal Tea Light Holders.

To my absolute relief they were hideous. The marble was grey, the painting blotchy and slap dash in gaudy colours. They were an absolute insult to the splendour of the real thing.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Technical hitches - 18th April 2009

Right, I'm having a few problems. There are five computers in this hotel. And there is free internet access. One computer is broken. Three are in use. And this computer that I'm on doesn't have a mouse. SO without a mouse I am use CTRL and SHIFT keys to navigate around websites. This is fine, except I can't fathom how to write titles for these blog posts. So the last post about Dolphins should be titled ""Dolphin Hunters - 14th April 2009"".

I'm going to continue now with these blog posts all within this same post. So everything will be in a bit of a mish mash.

Honestly, technology.

I want to ride my bicycle - 13th April 2009.

We've seen a lot of places where you can rent bicycles. But in most places where we've seen bikes to rent we haven't been able to., mainly because of the state of the roads and the traffic. But Don Det is quiet. There are no cars and bikes are every where.

The famous four - Amy, Emma, Chris and Hannah - all set off armed with a picnic and a bicycle each.


Cycling round the island of Don Det and Don Khon (connected by an old railway bridge) was lovely. The grass smelled sweet and the wind was in our hair. We found our way to a lovely waterfall and a beach where we had our picnic of crisp sandwiches, bananas and watermelon. Divine!


In a day we travelled the length and breadth of both islands. In fact I think we went down evewry single track possible on Don Det as we adventured around the island.

The bikes were a little bit rubish. Dodgy breaks, rubbish chains, crap bike bells.


It was a lovely day though, and was even worth the saddle ache that ensued that evening. Although it was eased off quite nicely by the Don Det Iced Teas that night.

New Year in Laos - 14th-16th April

I ahven't yet written about Thai New Year, but Thailand, Laos and Cambodia all of have there new year at this time of year.

Strangely, it's a three day event. And desppite experienceing a little bit of new year in each of the aforementioned countries I have still not worked out which day (of the three day celebration) is actually New Years Day. It's all a bit confusing. But it's all a wicked party.

The peace and idyll of this Mekong Island is completely disturbed by msuic players cranked up to the max! Seriously to the max! The music becomes so distorted it's almost painful to lsiten to. And it doesn't stop all night. BUt depite the racket you can still manage to get to sleep amid the partying.

Except, there isn't much partying going on to be honest. The music is blaring but people just seem to sit around chatting while the music plays. The atmospher areound the island on the new year periood was very relaxed and everyone was sitting around enjoying themselves with their families.

Right, I think that's about all I have to say on Laos. We didn't really spend very long there at all. We arrived on 10.4.09 and left early on the 15.4.09. I might write some more things in retrospect, but for the minute, that is everythin I have to say about Laos. It was a breif flit in the country, but different, and relaxing.

Things I will write about at some point soon...

From Thailand:

Traveeling at Songkran (New Year)
The Bright Lights of Pattaya
Cabbages and COndoms

From Cambodia:

New Year in Cambodia
More Waterfalls and a Volcano Lake
Bumpy Roads

And, From India:

The Taj Mahal
Eyebrow Threading
The Dhobi Ghat.

Jeez, there is so much to catch up on, will have to have a proper catch up sesh when I finally reach Oz.

Lots of love to everyone, I'm off to go see Angkor Wat by Sunset now. Ciao. x

I have a pair of binoculars in my rucksack.

They haven't been used yet.

Today would have been a perfect opportunity to have used them.

Today we went on a Dolphin Tour. We were on the hunt for a dozen or so Errawaddy Dolphins in the Mekong River. We knew before we set out that our chances of seeing them would be slim.

But we got very lucky.

We got off our boat and sat on a small island of rocks. We sat, and we waited very patiently and very quietly.

After about twenty minutes we caught our first glimpse.

They were about 300metres away but you could make out the fins and flippers.

The four of us (including Chris and Hannah) desperately waited with poised cameras that we had to hold so still so that we could use the zoom as best we could.

After a fair while of dolphin spotting and sightings no one managed to get a photo. We just ended up with lots of pictures of river.

It was a shame we didn't get to see them up close. Errawaddy Dolphins donĂ½ have a nose. Just a round bulbous head, so it would have been very cool to see them close up.

We sat about an hour watching them come up and down and playing in the water. We gave up on taking photos after a while and decided to enjioy it.

They came quite close at one point. Well, i say quite close, about a hundred meters away which was definitely cool as we saw the tail fins splash.

Binoculars would have been good today.

After the dolphins we went to see the biggest waterfall in South East Asia (by volume). I can't remember it's name, but it was very big and very powerful. Pretty incredible really.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Excuse me, there's a cockroach in my bed... 12th April 2009

Now, the guest house we are currently satying in is the cheapest on the island. But even if we were paying 100 dollars a night, I doubt very much that in this island location we would be able to escape cockroaches.

So on our first night we had failed to tuck in our mosquito net in properly and a cockroach had got in. Unable to bear the crunch of squishig it, I made emma catch it instead. Once the cockorach was ot of the way it was all good to fall off to sleep.

13.4.09

Just found another two cockroachs. Not in the mosquito net, but on the outside of the bed. I hope the net is tucked in properly.

14.4.09
Just one cockroachh - that i can see - this evening. I'm beggining to warm to them, as long as they stay out of the net.

Ants - April 13th 2009

I don't think I've ever been bitten by an ant. If i have it was years ago ad I can't remember what it was like. However, I came very close to being bitten today. I can't believe I actually managed to avoid getting bitten in fact.

The ant saga began at 9am when emma stepped into the shower and on to a million ants. As she battled with the pain she drowned the buggers with the shower head.

Round 1: Us 1, Ants 0

Later that day we arrived back at our hut to find out door swarming with ants. Big, fat, red ants.

Knowing that the leftover materials from our Don Det Iced Teas were just inside the door, we were apprehensive about opening our door in case we found even more ants swamring all over our room. Once we finally braved opening the door there were jsut a few inside on the outside of the coke bottle. Serious relief!

Then Round 2 began.

Armed with two hefty Lonely Planet books Emma and I took to swatting them and went on a massive killing spree.

Satisfied that we had killed the most, and scared off the rest we sat down and relaxed.

Round 2: Us 2, Ants 0

Then about 30 minutes later, they were back.

And this time there weren;t a million, but instead, a million-billion-squillion. They obviously came to avenge the deaths of the other ants, but we were ready and prepared to take this war to the next level. Oh yeah!

Off i wnet to speak the owner of the guest house to bring in the BAYGON! OOe of the boys then spent ten minutes sprayig and choking till every last ant was gone. Ha! Take that Ants!

We clearly won the war as the ants never came back to attack us again.

Don Det (Iced) Tea - 12th April 2009

To make:

1 Part Red 99 Premium Whisky
1 Part random alcohol with picture of Bananas and Pineapple on label
A splash of Sprite
A splash of Coke

Pour straight into glass/cup/drinking vessel. Don't shake, just swish about inside the indiviudal glass.

Please note this probably would be best served over ice, however lack of ice on Don Det
means that this has not been tested.

Drink responsibly.

TUBING! 12th April 2009

Whenever you meet someone who has already 'done' Laos, the first (and pretty much only) thing they always want to tell you about is Tubing. Everyone raves about it, and everyone wears the same "In the Tube" t-shirts.

AS I said before Van Vieng is THE place for tubing. So this is essentially the story of tubing a la Don Det.

We got in our boat and set off down the Mekong with for others Chris and Hannah (experieced Van Vieng tubers) and Herpes and Pom (Pom couldn't swim). The next thing we know, we are thrown in the river with our tubes about 3km away from our island and the boat goes off.

We were slap bang in the middle of the widest part of the river.

From the stories I've heard, in Vang Vieng the river is not so wide and lined with a couple of bars which pull yo in by rope so that you can have adrink at each bar. It's essentially a bar crawl that you float along.

In Don Det, it was an altogether different story.

We had each bought a Beer Lao before getting on the boat so we just enjoyed the ride with beers in our tubes and we let the (slow) current take us.

The sunset from this aspect was beautiful. And it felt all the more special because we were bobbing along the river. Sadly no pics to match as we didn't take the camera with us into the river.

But as the sun was setting we realised we still had a long way to go before we would reach Don Det. Which was fine, except for the fact that once the sun set it would get dark. And once it got dark we woudlnt be able to see which way we were going - tubes don't have headlights. Hmmm... this one was going to be interesting.

We bobbed further, and started to paddle along in the vain hope that we might reach Don Det before it was pitch black. At this point we were still 1.5km-ish away from the island.

As it turned to dusk our boat driver appeared and came to rescue us. Not that we really needed rescuing, but let's be fair, it wouldn't have been as much fun in the pitch black.

The idea was that we would have reached the beach by sunset. But obviously the current was a bit slow that day.

Later that evening, as we sat on our balcony drinking Don Det Iced Teas, loking out over the pitch black river we were thankful that the boat had come to pick us up. So thankful.

Happy Easter - 11th April 2009

Before I start, I would like to point out that the following posts were written as they happened into my diary, so these posts are re-written from there.

Can I also point out that this keyboard is RUBBISH and therefore there will be loads of spelling mistakes and typos.

---------------------------------

Som it's April 11th, it's 3pm in the afternoon and I;ve only jsut realised that it's Easter Sunday. Slow on the uptake? Me? Never.

Right now, I'm world a way from easter eggs, chicks and bunnies as I lie in a hammock over looking the Mekong River on the island of Don Det in Laos.

This river scene is incredibly peaceful. The greeery around is just lush and apart from the occasional river boat engine passing by, all I can hear is the noise of bugs and critters.

We arrived in Laos yesterday at about noon. We entered from the Thai border of Chong Mek and crossed into Pakse (Laos). We skipped out the North of Laos including Vientiane (the capital), Vang Vieng and Luag Prabang because of time issues.

The island of Don Det is one of Four Thousand Islands in this part of the Mekong River (Si Phan Don - literally translates as 4000 Islands). I really hope that there are actually 4000 islands here. On the boat ride over from the main land there were quite a few. Although some only had one tree on them, or even just a bush.

Don Det is unlike anywhere we have been so far. Being an island in a river there are no real beaches. Well there are a couple, but its mainly a river bank kind of place.

In an hour we are going tubing.

Laos is pretty famous on the backpacker scene for its tubing. The tubing capital is Vang Vieng, but tubing at Don Det is supposed to be good also. Hopefully there are no crocodiles in the water. But I guess there aren''t any because if there were some then they wouldn't risk letting tourists go tubing in the river with crocs. At least, you would hope any way!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Things never go to plan...

Last time I was online, I outlined a frantic plan involving floating river markets and a couple of days in Chaing Mai.

But the plan failed. But that definitely hasn't been a bad thing.

We made Erawan Waterfall which was truly beautiful. There were a million billion butterflies that just didn't stop flying all day. Incredible. The swim at the top was lovely too. Super cool and the fish were a bit vicious with their bites, but lovely.

That night we desperately tried to make it to the Damnoen Sadouak for the floating market. We failed. There were some stupid toruists on the bus who insisted on stopping for the toilet, and this meant we wasted time and missed our bus.

We carried on into Bangkok and went to bed.

The next day all the plans changed. Chaing Mai was off the radar and Bangkok and Pattaya were on.

I wanted a day in Bangkok to buy a camera and see the temples. So I spent Monday doing this. The Grand Palace was brilliant. It was so nice to see the bright gold and intricate ornaments looking so beautiful. In india, they would have looked gaudy and ugly, but the Thai influence meant they were a bit more sophisticated and not too garish - well, for the most part. After the Grand Palace I headed to Wat Pho, but it was closed (public holiday!) so I jumped in with a tuk-tuk driver who offered to show me the sights for 10baht. Of course this came at an expense, I had to go into shops so he could get his commission which came in the form of petrol coupons, but he explained that if i spent 5 minutes in each shop he would get commission just for me being in there. So i was happy to oblige and even happier that he would still get some commission if I didn't buy anything. So, for a two and a half hour ride, I spent 30 minutes in total in three different shops. I go to see lots of sights that I wouldn't have reached on foot, and he got 3 coupons. After dinner that night, I headed down to the Kao San market. I was very restrained and bought just a dress. A very nice dress, not very suitable for travelling, but one that could be appropriate for a very nice dinner in Perth. Ahem.

The next day was a visa day. The Chinese embassy. All a bit busy and mental. This was followed by some good time spent on buses so we could work out how to get to Laos. We worked it out so that was a success. That evening we headed to Damnoen Saduak for the floating market. In the process of getting three wrong buses there was one almighty storm. I will write more about this at some point soon. Needless to say, we got wet. Ming!

We arrived at Damnoen Saduak and booked our boat tour for the following mronign. The floating market was really cool. Again more about this soon.

Then after the market I headed straight to Pattaya for a few days with Wendy and Gary Harris. When I finally arrived at their house it was total heaven. I had three rooms all to myself. A dressing room and table with lights. It was bliss. But as soon as the rucksack was open it wasn't quite the same! I spent Wendesday and Thursday night with them at Pattaya and came back to Bangkok this morning with their driver Sam. There is lots to say about Pattaya but that is for another post altogether, indeed!

I met up with Emma and picked up our visas. Then I took a boat ride on the Khlongs and went to Wat Pho.

We are just a bout to go get the night bus to Laos. It's gunna be a long bus ride to the bus station and then an overnighter. Figners crossed I get some sleep! So the next time I write, I shall be in Laos. This trip is certainly whizzing by.

I promise to write some more very soon, as I have taken to writing in rough with the intention of copying up online. I will do some copying up very soon. Honest.

Love to everyone reading this.

Amy x

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Half Moon Party

I'm not gunna lie... I don't remember a lot of this.

Before we got there we accidently stumbled across the Thai equivalent of Lambrini in Seven/Eleven (it was sold in beer bottles, but definitely Lambrini) Oh yes!

We got to the jungle at about ten in the evening. It looked awesome and sounded awesome!

We haggled over our glow paints that were decorated on our arms. Awesome!!!

We bought a bucket of Sam Song (a whisky based drink with coke and red bull - yumm!)

We paid 20p to use the toilet. Rip off!

We had a dance. Tunes! - There was even some Queen mixed in with the trance stuff

We bought another bucket of Sam Song.

We had a dance.

We paid 20p to use the toilet.

We bumped into some guys we met in Surat Thani.

We bumped into some girls we met in the Perhentians, Surat Thani and Koh Tao.

By this point it was about 3am.

We may then possibly have had another bucket of Sam Song.

We probably also did some more dancing.

Then it was 7am, it was sunny and we were getting in a taxi.

By 7.30am we were passed out in bed asleep.

It was a good night. Except we both somehow, at some point, lost our flip flops (and our memories).

Sadly, we don't have any photos as we didn't want to write off another camera in a drunken haze. In any case, I don't think the world needs any more photos of us drunkenly dancing away.

---

NB to parents and those who are concerned: Although there have been two recent posts detailing alcohol related tomfoolery, we have not been drinking copious amounts of alcohol. I can count the number of units we consumed in India on two hands. We have been drinking in Thailand because it is part of the 'scene', you know, "When in Rome and all that!"

Learning to love lizards

When I was 12 I went on holiday to Mauritius.

Mauritius was lovely. The only thing I didn't like about the place was the lizards.

Every night there would be four of five teeny-tiny geckos running around on the ceiling.

I was petrified. I cried. A lot. (Yes, I was twelve!)

My greatest fear was that a lizard would lose its grip and fall off the ceiling and plunge into my open, snoring mouth. That would not have been fun!

---

When I was 16 I went on holiday to Lombok.

One evening as I was brushing my teeth a teeny-tiny gecko appeared from behind the bathroom mirror.

I screamed.

Not just a little girlie scream.

Oh no. A giant, ear-piercing, blood-curdling scream.

I must have deafened the lizard. It ran away pretty sharpish! I certainly scared my family.

---

Ok, I know it's completely irrational and ridiculous. But I was genuinely scared of them. They move so fast, it is rumoured that if you pull their tails they fall off, and they could so000 easily lose their grip.

You will be glad to know that I haven't yet cried or screamed once at the sight of a gecko on this trip.

And it's not just geckos that I am now brave to.

On Mira Beach there were monitor lizards. Big 'uns. About a meter long, including their tails.

I must admit i was startled when I first saw one. But there were no shrill screams coming from my mouth.

They also had lizards that were smaller than monitor lizards but bigger than geckos. These were in all different colours, and they tended to hang out near the communal bathroom. So even in the middle of the night when I was confronted with the lizards face to face, I was brave and I was bold. Oh yeah!

I am definitely over the whole scared of lizards thing. Yes!

Paradise

Mira Beach was literally Paradise.

This beach on the Small Perhentian Island had been recommended to us by Maggie and Caren who had been there earlier in the year.

We have a photo of Mira Beach. It doesn't look real. It looks like a picture you would see on a postcard. Except it isn't a picture on a postcard, it is a real beach.

There were literally 8 huts on our beach (so a maximum on 16 guests).

It wasn't the cheapest place in the world, but at eight pounds a night (for 2 of us) it certainly wasn't the most expensive place.

Added to the beautiful setting were the kindest hosts. Azaha and his wife Zee were just lovely. And the guys that worked there were lovely too.

It was such a nice place to spend a few days relaxing.

Factor 30 Sun Cream

We have been very careful with our sun protection since being away.

And when we ran out of sun cream we went out and purchased some Factor 30! Some Factor 30 bought for the grand sum of 80 pence.

We put plenty on, and then got on the boat to Koh Tao.

We sat on the deck and enjoyed the morning sun.

By the time the boat arrived at it's first destination I was feeling a little hot. So when we swapped boats I decided to sit inside.

It was at this point that we realised that the suncream probably wasn't Factor 30 like it claimed to be. We were both starting to turn pink! Eek!

We now use this suncream as After Sun. It definitely moisturizers, but apparently doesn't offer any sun protection.

Free Things

While we were in Malaysia we had a run of freebies - and we all know that free things are the best things!

A Free Night's Accommodation

After leaving the Cameron Highlands we got a bus from Ipoh to Jeteh (for the Perhentian Islands). The Bus was due to arrive at Jeteh at 5am.

It didn't. It arrived at 2am.

Everywhere in Jeteh was closed, except for one glowing beacon of hope.

Seven/Eleven. (That's a 24hour convenience store a bit like a Spar).

All the guesthouses were locked up, all the lights were out everywhere, all there was was a Seven/Eleven.

So, in true hobo style, we got comfy on the steps of Seven/Eleven.

Getting comfy wasn't easy because there were millions of green fly.

To stop the irritation of the green fly I took the following preventative steps:
  • Sun glasses
  • Scarf over face
  • Cagoule with hood drawstrings pulled tight
  • Cagoule with sleeves velcroed tight
  • Socks tucked into trousers.
With these steps in place, I managed to get a couple of hours shut-eye.

Throughout the night the customers at Seven/Eleven laughed at me lots - there i was with my scarf over my face.

It was a safe place to sleep, the shop workers inside knew we were there and kept an eye on us, and the constant stream of customers in and out throughout the night also looked after us too.

Free Snorkel Hire

When we arrived at Mira Beach on the Perhentian Islands the lovely Azaha (the owner of the beach) allowed us to hire snorkels for free.

For everyone else this was a one pound per day luxury, but for us it was purely free! And we made the most of this freebie with lots of snorkelling and fish spotting.

Free Boat Ride to the Fishing Village

On our first day at Mira we were kindly taken to the Fishing Village.

Had we wanted to do this ourselves it would have been a 2 pound taxi ride. But we jumped in with the guys for the daily "supplies" trip.

It was nice to see a few more beaches on the island and nice to see the village too. Free boat ride, woop!

Free Snorkel Trip

Snorkelling trips from Mira Beach cost about a tenner. However, the lovely Azaha took us on his boat for an hours snorkelling near the lighthouse.

This was some good snorkelling.

We saw loads of cool fish, including Clown Fish and Parrot Fish, and lots of beautiful fish whose names I just don't know. There were ever some cool swordfish type things, these were a little scary at first but actually turned out to be very placid.

Free Trip half way to the Border

The day we left Mira Beach, Azaha was on his way to the city to give a guided tour. He offered to take us part way to the border so that all we would need to do would be catch one bus to the Thai border.

Had he not offered the lift we would have had to get three different buses which would have meant lots of waiting. Azaha was/is a legend.

Another Free Night's Accomodation

The hospitality, kindness and free stuff continued to flow as we made our way into Thailand.

We had spent the best part of the day on the train and arrived at Surat Thani (the port to access Koh Tao) at 11pm.

We arrived at a hotel and the owner showed us up to the reception, but did not realise that the hotel was in fact fully-booked.

I looked to see a group of travellers sitting on a sofa in the reception area: "Can we sleep there?" I asked hopefully. "Yes" was the response from the owner. Get in! Another free night! And it was incredibly peaceful and quiet, and it even had a fan. Bonus.

---

We haven't had any free things in the last few days. But we certainly had a good run of freebies. As the song goes the: "Best Things In Life Are Free". Except... well, maybe sleeping outside a Seven/Eleven isn't one of the greatest things in life. But at the time, and in that place it was great.

The last few days in a nutshell

March 29th - Perhentian Islands (Malaysia) to Surat Thani in Thailand

March 30th - Surat Thani to Koh Tao: Boat trip to Koh Tao and arrive in Koh Tao

March 31st - Koh Tao: Morning washing all the wet stuff from the previous nights' flood, Afternoon on the beach and snorkelling

April 1st - Koh Tao: Day Snorkelling Trip around the island - saw six black fin sharks

April 2nd - Koh Tao to Koh Panghang: Half Moon Party = Buckets of SamSong + Glow Paints +
Music all night = messy

April 3rd - Koh Panghang to Bangkok: Ferry to Chumpong, then night bus to Bangkok arriving at 2.30am! urgh!

April 4th - Bangkok to Kanchanaburi: Thailand/Burma Railway Museum, War Cemetery, The Bridge

The next few days...

April 5th - Erawan Waterfall then back to Bangkok

April 6th - In Bangkok either floating market/apply for Chinese visa (depends on public holiday) Head to Chaing Mai overnight (if we have applied for Chinese Visa)

April 7th - Apply for Chinese visa if not done so already, buy a new camera head to Chaing Mai by night train.

Next few days in Chaing Mai

Back in Bangkok on 10th April to collect Chinese visas.

11th April to Laos.

So that is our action-packed plan for the next week or so, for all of you who like to keep tabs on me.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

I need a wee...

Right, I really need to go to the toilet now so I need to leave the internet cafe. I do have lots more to say as ever, but I guess it will have to wait for another time.

We are heading to Koh Panghang this afternoon for the half moon party tonight. And then will be on our way to Bangkok tomorrow.

Koh Tao: the island where everything went wrong

To be honest the last few days in Koh Tao have been as far away from a heavenly paradise as you can imagine. Well, maybe I'm laying it on a bit thick, but the last few days have been eventful.

There was the camera incident of course. (Read below)

But before the camera incident came something much worse.

I think I mentioned that we had managed to find a hut for our first night in Koh Tao that was cheap as chips at 150Baht (3 Pounds). The only snag was that there was no electricity and no water. But this didn't bother us, we have headtorches!

So we came back home at about 11.30pm after a fairly low key evening with a couple of beers on the beach.

As we walked up to the hut I noticed that the light was on. Woo, we had electricity. Bonus.

As we got to the door I could hear running water.

As I opened the door I saw running water.

As I stepped trhough the door I was standing in pools of water.

In slow motion I ran for the tap and switched it off.

I looked at the damage.

The first thing we noticed was the portable safe. This safe has been a brilliant investment in security for us when travelling: passports, money, video camera, cameras, ipods all get locked away in this little beauty when we go out. To keep it secure we lock it to a fixed fixture.

The secure fixture that the safe was attached to in this hut was the pipe beneath the sink. The pipe beneath the sink which had suddenly switched itself on during the evening.

The safe was drenched and we were both petrified at the thought of our passports being dissintegrated goo inside. All our photos would be gone and all the video would be gone too.

We openend the safe and to our absolute relief everything inside was perfectly intact. Everything except for my notebook. Thankfully it was a notebook I hadn't yet started writing in.

Relieved that our paspports and electricals were safe from the flood we looked around the room.

All my clothes were soaked! All my knickers were soaked! I had left my rucksack lying on the floor and clothes were spilling out of it. The water had just soaked through.

Apart from wet clothes, and my drenched notebook the only other damages were the phrasebooks in emma's bag. These were drenched.

So, I guess the water supply had been fixed.

It took me two hours to wash all my wet clothes the next day. 2 hours! It dried quite quickly though on the balcony.

Absolute nightmare. But at the end of the day, it could have been a lot worse, a lot worse.

I was going to add some pictures to this blog...

Yes, it's true... I was actually going to take the time to upload some pictures while Emma was doing the last morning of her diving course. I had it all planned out. I was all ready to get uploading... but then, disaster struck.

My camera went for a swim. In the sea.

It was a drunken accident.

The photographer who had the camera in hand at the moment of submersion was Miss Jones.

We will be buying a new camera in Bangkok.

So yeah, until I get a new camera sorted there will be no pictures online. Sorry folks.

I seriously hope the memory card will be fine. Other people have told me when it's happened to them the memory card has survived.

There will be tears, and possible even murder, if all the photos on the card are lost.

Emma does have her camera still so we still have the ability to take photos. And I could upload the photos that Emma has on her camera but I'm running out of time in the internet cafe and can't be bothered.