14 Jul 2019

Stuff

So, the Thailand tour was epic, so great to meet up with Ellie, even though the backpack was far too heavy......did I mention it weighed like a small car?
And then, this year J and I went to Morocco, and Fuerteventura and Sicily, honest, so many trips I can hardly keep up (all my life I have dreamed of this kind of constant holidaying, hah).....

Huge Mosque in Casablanca, built by the King to show off to neighbouring countries
Fez Medina, where you would totally get lost without a guide

Beautiful lantern, if only I could fit in my suitcase

Best beach in the world , El Cotillo


Needless to say, I have taken thousands of pics, and totally failed to print them all, never mind stick them all in books, but suffice to say, we had great fun, and I've hated coming home each time. I will get around to logging it all eventually when I retire.......................oh, wait, that was 2 years ago, hah. Meanwhile, they will wait in their respective carrier bags until such time as I feel like dealing with them all.

And that goes for all the Alice pics I have taken over the last 5 years too... Las Vegas, California, Swindon (haha California to Swindon, what a comedown) Plymouth, the epic tour of the OGs in the UK in 2017 and the Hollywood Vamps last year.....probs won't get it done by the time this years tour arrives either, lol. And that promises to be epic too -  Aberdeen to Brighton and lots in between, 7 shows, which will just about kill me! But in a good way, lol

Beautiful Canarian colours

Spent the afternoon sitting in this tiny lagoon, watching the fish nibble my toes
This reminds me of a certain band, that nobody but an Alice fan will get
Georgeous view over Palermo

Cookery class makes aubergines taste great
ditto ice cream
Pasta in Italy tastes better than anywhere else


Sicilian street
Italian graveyards are AMAZING
Sicilan resort of Cefalu, beautiful, clean, and no graffiti

But before that, we will be off to Bansko, Bulgaria with some very dear friends, and hopefully also to Thailand to meet up with Ellie, but its proving to be a bit of a nightmare trying to fit it in. So it will totally depend on how we manage to juggle the imminent departure this Sept, of Sarah to Brighton Uni, where she has just been accepted for a three year course in Digital Media, so excited for her!  
Major shenanigans ensue, as we try to find the perfect accommodation for her at the very last minute, lol. And then we will be on our own at home................ooooerrrrrrrrrr.....well except for 4 cats. Anybody want to adopt a cat??? or 4?




9 Mar 2019

Sihanoukville and Beyond

Dec 1st.
Another long bus ride took us to Sihanoukville on the coast. (thank you Giant Ibis, best bus co in Thailand!)
It's a complete disaster of a city, taken over by the Chinese mafia, and full of half built casinos and enormous hotels - a giant building site really.
We had a to wait a bit for the ferry over to Koh Rong Island, but I really enjoyed the ride, sun setting, wind in my hair, gorgeous island in the distance etc etc.

As previously mentioned, we had booked into a resort hostel, it was called Reef On The Beach. It looked gorgeous, but some of the reviews were a bit worrying.... Punch ups between the staff, guests attacked when they asked for things etc etc. Tbh, the bloke in charge looked a bit scary, but we had no problems, they were fine. One of them was on our ferry and even carried my backpack to the hostel for me! (Did I mention it weighs like a small car?)


   

Beautiful spot, right on the beach. Ellie and Will had a tent, looked nice, but was completely boiling by 8am, and there was no air con anywhere. In fact there wasn't always electricity........ And I somehow managed not to get enough money out, in spite of Ellie warning me there were no atms on the island, so I spent most of the day in the bar area, getting free glasses of ice, and drinking that. I caught up with my journal, and spent the afternoon sweating in a hammock, thinking I would manage without any more food that day. Not hard really, it's too hot to eat. It's too hot to do anything.
Later, I discovered that they take card payments, woopeee! So I payed the bill by card and they gave me back the cash I'd given them earlier. Yay, I can eat dinner! I don't remember whether I actually did in the end, but at least I could drink lots of iced tea. It's not the same as Thai iced tea, which is my fave, but if I ask for lemon tea without sugar, it's not bad at all.



 Ellie came down to my shed in the evening and we listened to next doors Chinese kareoke for a bit - there was loads of them at first, and they were hilarious, but it dwindled to about 3 by 9 o'clock. And they went on and on and on, and they were very loud and abso terrible.
I spent a horribly uncomfortable night, getting tangled up in the mozzie net as I tried to get the fans to blow on me. When the power was on, that is.
Why is it that hotel plug sockets are always in all the wrong place?  I've  noticed a few recurring things about Asian hostels - there is always a socket that doesn't work, none of them are ever screwed to the wall properly, and there is always a light switch that doesn't do anything......

 I was ready to kill someone by the morning, but we'd booked one more night, and I wasn't gonna argue with Scary Bloke about a refund.......and then go on to Koh Rong Samloen in the morning.


In the evening, we walked off down the beach away from the lights, and went in the sea to get a look at the bioluminescent plankton. I heard about this from Amy who went there on her travels, and also in a lovely book I read years ago, called My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. He grew up in Corfu, and used to see this phenomenon all the time.
The hostel did boat trips out at night, probably this would've been better, as it would've been far away from any light pollution, but we saw quite a lot of them just ten feet off the beach! You wave your hand around underwater, and they light up! Amazing.

I found a place on Samloen with aircon (electricity permitting) and I was up and packed well early. Let me out!!!



3rd Dec

We booked the ferry for Samloen, and I struggled down the pier with my tiny but super heavy backpack. First stop was the village down the coast, and then on to Samloen. My gaff was about 100yds down the beach and it's very nice. Ellie and Will booked in the Cliff House up a big hill, complete madness......

But I made it up the hill for dinner. Would like to say it was worth it, but they put what tasted like masses of chilli in my soup, in spite of my requests not to, so I am not impressed. In spite of the gorgeous sunset view....

Back down at my gaff, there was lots of lightning and thunder,  pretty amazing to watch from the beach, and the bar is a great place to see it all, and then I retired for a nice air conditioned sleep.


4th Dec

The power was off in the morning, but breakfast was still good. Lots of fruit and yogurt and  tea of course. Apparently they are putting in a huge new generator to be able to cope better with the electricity demand.
Today I went on a snorkelling trip round the island, 40 mins by boat, and then we jumped off to swim and I forgot my earplugs. Omg, I hate being old and forgetful, everything is such a trial, I wouldn't have cared when I was19, but now I am plagued by stoopid things like blocked ears, achey knees, useless muscles etc etc All my limbs refuse to do what I ask of them without creaking, jeez, everything is a struggle. Ffs, I can't even snorkel without a life jacket any more, what's that about????? Grrr

I mean. 5 mins of treading water, and I am ready to drown, honestly. Things like this used to be so easy.......

It was a lovely reef, very pristine, lots of sea urchins etc,  but not quite as diverse as Egypt. I need to dive again......if only my aging bod can cope with it, hah!

The boat left us at Sunset beach for a while, no wifi, I chatted to some people in a bar, seems like they are living the good life! But, I missed my phone ^_^

https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-SchsMt0e-5s/XMHvEy3OukI/AAAAAAAARjI/354b0IIrXiweno5unyT208Umb_l4ubmfgCLcBGAs/s400/IMG_20181201_163251.jpg

Ellie and Will came down to my place for what they call 'Family dinner', where the cook does a trad meal for the guests and staff, such lovely food! They went home and I got quietly pissed on some wine I'd bought at the local 'supermarket'. I love it when the bar is 5 steps away from your bed.

5th Dec
Had a very good sleep, but I apparently missed a big storm! That'll be the wine then :)

I had a(nother) chilled day today, late brekkie, lots of reading and then lunch at the Greek restaurant on the pier with Ellie and Will. Later on, they went canoeing, and I walked down the coast a bit to Clearwater Bay. It is so beautiful but the Cambodians have a big problem with rubbish, they just seem to dump it wherever they can, and it is such a shame for such a beautiful country. I sat on the beach for a bit, in the sweltering heat, the water looked very inviting but I've had enough of sand up yer bum for one day
.
I found a bar with wine – Bongs! – and the bloke said, oh it’s not ready to serve, it’s a bit warm….. So I said,’Just add some ice, it’ll be fine’!!

Some time later, I stumbled a few bars along the front to Mermaids Restaurant, and met up with Ellie and Will for a last meal. We all had fish amok, a local dish and it was gorgeous. As is all the food here, tbh,  as long as they cook it without chilli. So many amazing flavours, and chilli just kills all of them, duh…..I cannot understand why it’s so popular, I hate it………. 



Back in my room I managed to pack all my stuff into Amy’s little backpack (weighs like a small car, though, remember?) and all of  Will’s dive books, and Ellie’s things she doesn’t want etc etc…. Dunno how I'm gonna get down the pier with it, weighs like 2 small cars now…….



I had to get up early, as they are leaving for Kampot about 9am. I waved them off from the pier, and it made me very sad….. 😭😭😭😭


 .

Back in Sihanoukville I got a tuk tuk to the bus place and waited there for a few hours, and then it was long trip back to Phnom Penh airport for my flight back to Bangkok. I went back and stayed in the lovely Khao San Art hotel, we’d been there before, it’s so nice, and I immediately ordered an iced Thai tea………..I think I’d be happy to live here for a while, such a nice place. And I love Thai tea!


But I had to leave, grrr, to get a flight to Chengdu , followed by a flight to London. Was ready to kill myself at Chengdu….. I bought a duty free bottle of wine at Bangkok airport, and then they made us get off at Chengdu. And collect our luggage, and go thru customs. So when I went back thru security to get on the connecting flight, they  insisted I put the bottle in my hold luggage. Which had already gone through to the plane…….and tbh, there was no room in it for even a miniature bottle, let alone a full size one. I had managed to cram in all Will's dive books and other stuff that Ellie didn't want, and there wasn't a spare inch of space in it....And the bloody wine was in a sealed bag, from the duty free in BK, dunno what they thought  I was gonna do with it.........In the end, having trekked about 2 miles around Cheng Du Airport with various 'Officials', I picked up the bottle and handed to one of them, saying, ‘Happy Christmas!’  And left without it.


Ten hours later, I was screaming mad to get off the plane, but when I did , there was scummy cold England. What a come down.


I love travelling. But it sucks to go home afterwards.








6 Mar 2019

27th Nov

27th Nov.
Rain, rain and more rain. But Ellie is determined to get her money's worth, bless her, so we did the Grand Circuit - more temples, although they are a bit further out. I think she'd like to see all 72 of them, even though they are somewhat similar........


Will are I are a bit templed out at this point, but we continue, partly for her and partly because they really are fascinating. She asked me in the morning, 'Have you got your raincoat?' even though she knows I don't have one, but it was something she kept telling me I needed!  (Never owned one and prob never will, hah!) (aren't they for old people?) 
Lol, she reminds me of my Dad, who would always say things like, 'Have you got your raincoat/slippers/sensible shoes?' None of which I EVER owned in my life, and still don't! And he knew that, but still thought I should get them, even though he knew I detested all things 'sensible' (and still do!) bless him :)

We retired back to the hostel for a late lunch, and an afternoon of admin - booking the trip to Phnom Penh, the hostels etc etc. Ellie is also a little bit like John, often finding the perfect place first time, but then spending another 2 hours looking in case something better turns up!

Gotta say, I love this idea of booking stuff as you go along. We did it a bit on our 6 week tour of the American Mid West, back in 1992, and it was fun then. Such a sense of freedom!

So, now we have 3 nights in PP, and then bus/ferry over to Koh Rong Island for, um, I can't remember how long. Til I have to go home, I guess.
There didn't seem to be any resorts with air con....oh dear, I feel a meltdown coming on (literally!) But I will do my best and we shall see.......

Our hostels in PP are next door to each other, theirs is nice but only has dorms (which for me is a big fat NONO). But mine tried to give me an awful room on the 3rd floor, abso REEKED of mould, mainly cos the air con didn't seem to be vented, water dripping down the wall, major case of wet plaster...ugh..................

I tried, I really did, had the door open and the AC on full for 30 mins.................Nope, still as smelly as a wet dog dressed in a wet Afghan coat. On a wet duffle coat.

They told me that they had no more rooms, so I booked into another hostel, 2 doors down, and demanded a refund. Whereupon  they suddenly decided that they did have more rooms. Too late! After a prolonged argument, I got a full refund the next day, and posted an awful review on  Booking.com. Which they attempted to answer, but didn't actually make any sense, so I think it's
Me:1,  Lebou Boutique Crap Smelly Hostel:nil.
gorgeous Tom Yam soup from their hostel chef
Richly Hostel, where I ended up, perfectly equipped but dull as ditchwater
The following day, we were gonna do the Killing Fields, but poor Ellie was ill, so Will and I left her in bed, and had a gander around the city. We went to the Central Market, which was full of clothes that looked like they'd been stolen from UK charity shops, and had a nice lunch in a lovely A/C cafe by the river. After a short pm siesta, I retired to a bar across the road, and waited for them to sort themselves out, so we could go to a board game cafe a few doors down. Unfortunately, they forgot to let me know when they got there, so I had a few more wines than strictly necessary, and stumbled back to my room rather later than I intended...grrr
.

The following day, we all went off to The Killing Fields, and it was very grim. Hard to imagine why a country's leader would want to exterminate 3/4 of the population, never mind about how they did it. Gardening tools, serrated palm tree leaves (used as saws to cut off peoples heads) a tree, which they dashed children's heads into..................unbelievable stuff.  They herded everybody from the countryside into the city, and then just started killing them - for being a doctor, or having a degree or even wearing glasses......totally bizzare.
It all happened in the 70's, which I ought to remember, but I don't really, other than very vaguely. I remember the name, Pol Pot, but had no idea how terrible his crimes were, worse than Hitler really.  He was some kind of maniac.....Ugh.




The coloured dots mark the spots where the skull was hit......







2 Mar 2019


26 Nov

Ellie and Will decided to get up early for the sunrise view over Angkor Wat. As I am completely shite at getting up early these days, I decided to pass on that, and instead booked into a half day Cambodian cookery class. And anyway, I got a great pic at the sunrise spot yesterday.



 
There was only 3 of us, me and 2 boys from Singapore. Before we started cooking, we first visited a Cambodian family home so we could see how they lived.....and it is very very different from the UK. The house was mainly made of woven reed walls that have to be replaced every year, and the kitchen was just a bench with a fire pit in the corner. But the lady seemed very content with her life, there was a rice paddy next door and a garden with lots of vegetables and herbs growing, and I think that really, they've got it right. We have so many things we don't need, so much choice of food at the supermarket, and one thing I've learnt whilst travelling, is that it's very satisfying to be managing with just the basics. You can certainly live well out here with a backpack full of essentials. And a  credit card comes in handy of course!

 


The kitchen was outside as usual, and very well equipped and the ingredients were all sorted for us. 

 


Catfish Amok
We made made catfish amok, which is a Cambodian classic, made with chopped amok leaf, coconut milk, and all the usual Thai flavourings,  and green mango salad to go with it, (very similar to the green papaya salad I made at Sammys, and just as yummy). For dessert, we made some kind of banana thing with palm sugar. Way too sweet for me, even though I threw away half the palm sugar when she wasn't looking.

Also chucked away the ginger and the chilli, and the flavours are absolutely awesome without them!


Quite similar to Thai cooking, we used kaffir lime leaves, and fish sauce etc, and then they served it to us in a beautiful jungle setting.


After the tuktuk home, 20 mins each way, I am filthy again. It's a very dusty country, but the dust is red, so it looks like you have a tan! But I defo needed a shower in my lovely room followed by a short siesta. 😊
Our favourite tuktuk driver, Mr. Vikram took us down to Pub Street for dinner. Talk about sensory overload. Loads of lights, noise, restaurants, etc etc, so much going on! We found a nice restaurant, but I was afraid to order a curry in case it's too hot!! But there is loads of Western type food around if you want it.