12 Jan 2019

Angkor Wat and beyond

We got up early for our free breakfast and to meet up with Mr Vichet, our tuktuk driver for the day tour of Angkor National Park. What an amazing place!  Angkor Wat itself  was built by a Khmer King, Suryavarman II in the early 12th century, as the capital of the Khmer Empire, and is the best preserved temple in the park, but there are literally hundreds of them, scattered over about 500 acres.

They are breathtaking. You can climb in amongst them, and you'll find a maze of passageways, twisting and turning every whichway, usually ending in an amazing photo oportunity. The Cambodians have tried to renovate some of the more crumbled buildings, but, tbh, the crumblier temples were much more interesting. Especially Ta Prohm, it was completely tumble down and almost overtaken by the jungle, which made it absolutely fascinating.
Ellie and I were blessed by a monk in one of the temples. He ties a bracelet on you, whilst jabbering away in Thai, and spraying you with water. For a donation of course.

But before we got there, we saw Angkor Wat itself, Bayon Temple and Angkor Thom. Angkor means 'City', Thom means 'Great', and Wat is temple. Angkor Thom is full of temples and other buildings with enormous faces carved into the rock. It's mostly the same face, sort of smiley, and archaeologists believe the faces to be of Lokeshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. Whatever that means. But I think Steely Dan wrote a song about it.

There was a lunch stop at a beautiful outdoor cafe (had a little indoor A/C place thank god) and it even had proper loos! The soap was boiling hot though, being in the sun all day :)
After lunch, we reclined on platforms built in a pond filled with fish. Ellie was afraid I would put my feet in, to have them nibble away at my hard skin, but I refrained, just for her.

But back to Ta Prohm. Tomb Raider was filmed here and it was almost totally overgrown, with massive tree roots becoming part of the walls, and huge piles of rubble where the trees had finally won the battle. And massive crowds of bloody Chinese tourists, getting in everybody else's way, so it was hard to take a photo without one of them in it. We dubbed them 'Twitters', mainly so we could talk about them without being offensive. This was mainly for Ellie, I am quite happy to be offensive on occasion, hah.:)

We were hoping for the sunset view over Angkor Wat, but it was too cloudy, so Ellie and Will are coming back in the morning for a sunrise view. But I am not, too flipping early for me. I watched the sunrise over the Grand Canyon once, and decided that it was enough for me, and that I didn't need to watch any more. Sunset is just as good, and it can be enjoyed at a sensible time, with a glass of wine in hand. It's a no brainer. (I really hate that phrase, but can/t come up with anything better)

My day bag, which has been with me for years, decided to break as soon as I got here. So I bought another one in a Chiang Mai market for £4, and it's very lovely and Thai flavoured, but unfortunately, has now broken too. I have a lovely rucksack from Mountain Warehouse, and I wish I had brought it with me .......  next time......................
Luckily the nice people at the lovely Bokre Angkor Hotel had a sewing kit, so I managed to sew the straps back onto the bag, so that it will live for another 2 weeks. Hopefully.

Later on that evening,we looked for the Tomb Raider movie online so we could watch it, but couldn't find it anywhere. Just as well really, I checked it out later, and it was complete rubbish. Great scenery though.

This is the view every takes at sunrise - as long as there is a sunrise of course 

20 Dec 2018

Yes there's more

23 Nov
One ferry/bus trip later, we finally arrive back in Bangkok. It felt like the journey lasted about 2 weeks, it was dire……..note to self :-Avoid Overnight Buses. It was Shite, never been so uncomfortable in my life.
Moonlight ferry transfer from Koh Phangan to Surat Thani
24th Nov
 After much deliberation, we selected the The Khaosan Art hotel, and it is lovely. Not only does it fit all my requirements, ie aircon, good reviews, cheap (£8 a night!) etc etc, but it has a lovely vibe, lots of art on the walls, lovely café/bar, free shampoo/shower gel, endless free towels, great location.  I only had a single room, which was tiny but otherwise perfect. Aircon cools it down in about 10 mins!
We went out for a wander, there is a market that starts in the alley just next door, and a 7/11 on the corner. And a money exchange place on the other corner so we loaded up with dollars for Cambodia, I'm not sure if we need the local currency, rial, but we'll see when we get there.
Lovely Thai ice tea

My teeny weeny bedroom - even had a window!

Alley way outside the hostel bar.

The bus co, Giant Ibis normally provides free transfers to the pick up point – they are the best bus co. in Asia by far, there’s always A/C, loads of leg room, food at various intervals, sometimes the wifi even works! (usually not though 😊). But as it was only a 7 minutes away, the ‘kids’ decided we could easily walk it. Thank you, children grr. I mean, it would’ve been easy if I’d bought a flipping wheeled suitcase, but with The Bear Backpack weighing in like small car and me being such a weakling, I was a bit worried……

But I made it, and, as a reward, I bought a cup full of chopped watermelon off the enterprising street food guy at the bus top. I love watermelon and mango, and there’s nearly always someone nearby who has done all the prep, and will flog it to you for less than a quid.
We have heard awful stories about the Cambodian border crossing.  Poipet is notoriously bad for scammers and con men, who want to take your passport off you for the visa process and then charge you an arm and a leg to get it back – or the bus goes off without you! Thankfully, Giant Ibis are really good at  this too. And I am now second in the Sheep Shirt Furthest-From-Point-of-Manaufacture! ( #weareamongstewe )

And they were great! Took all our passports into the embassy for the visa stamp, and then we just had to show that as we walked across the border. Only took about 3 hours, jeez, they are so unorganised! We lost Will at one point, they decided to let some of us go through a side checkpoint, and he got left behind. We got through pretty quick after that but we didn't see him again for at least an hour.

They gave us dinner on the bus, rice and veg, very nice, and then I fell asleep when we set off again. The countryside is very flat, with lots of half built shacks, some nice houses, piles of rubble and endless rice fields.

Woke up to the city, what an amazing contrast, shacks and tuk tuks, cars, vans, piles of rubbish, lorries and shanty town buildings, and here and there in between the rubble, enormous extremely flash hotels, which are mainly for the Chinese tourists.
We are staying in the Bokre Angkor Hostel, which is a smallish hotel, but  it’s beautiful, with a great café, a swimming pool, and an entrance surrounded by palms and banana trees. Cambodia is a little more expensive, than Thailand, because they use dollars but it’s still cheap - about £58 for 3 nights, twin room, A/C breakfast. And a fridge! Which didn’t work in my first room, so I managed to get relocated next door to Ellie and Will. Perfect!!

The Bokre Angkor hotel

We booked a tuk tuk for the exploration day tomorrow, Angkor park is huge and he will drive is from temple to temple. I also booked a cookery class for Mon morning, just me, they are going to see the sun rise over Angkor Wat, too early for me. And I am keen to sample Cambodian cooking!

16 Dec 2018

And so on

Nov 20
Bit of a rainy day. But awesome to watch the rain from my balcony. I had a very chilled day, catching up with my journal, sticking stuff in, and reading my book. I managed to sunbathe for an hour or so in between showers, but, crikey, you need to be dedicated, it's so flipping hot! When the rain stopped again I walked to the nearby Wangsai Waterfall. It was pretty quiet, tourist wise, but I sat in the bar and had an iced Thai tea, whilst watching more rain.

There is an amazing tree house overlooking the waterfall

Later on I walked down to the village, and checked out the restaurants.
And I am currently in Roots restaurant awaiting dinner. They have wine!! Sorted :)

Loved this place. Would defo like to come back one day

Nov 21st
It's my last chill day on Koh Phangan. The sun made an appearance so I managed to do about half  and hours work on my tan, but it defeated me again. So I retired to the deep shade of the outside bar and indulged in yet another Thai iced tea. Can't work out what it tastes of really, sort of vanilla or chocolate or caramel....whatever, bung in some 9naughty) condensed milk, and a bucketfuk of ice, and it is heavenly!
Packing didn't take too long really, but the Bear Backpack is pretty full up. Ellie's bag is at least twice as big, I have no idea how she copes with it, it takes the two of them to get it on her back!
Amy had the right idea really, woth a smaller bag, but next time I do this, I'm bringing a nice hard suitcase with wheels.
Went out to dinner with Ellie and Will and some of their friends, to an Italian restaurant. The ravoili was lovely, but they didn't have garlic bread! What kind if Italian restaurant doesn't have garlic bread?? It doesn't help, I suppose,  that most of the bread you buy here is of the white plastic variety....
Ellie and Will buy sweet potato puffs at the Night Market

Jet and Ellie