August 30 | Comments (0)
It's been a rough ride the last few days. I'm not sure if I can handle all of the sun and sand.
Dao, 27, female - long trunk, quiet, likes long walks and fresh pomelo.
Yesterday we spent the morning on an elephant trek through the jungle (Chang Chutiman Tour Tel. 089-939-6676, 087-135-7424). On the way back Jen got the prime position on the head of the elephant (just behind the ears), and I got to sit like a maharaja (yeah, I know wrong country) on the seat behind her whilst our mahout walked in front calling out commands so that Dao didn't get any bright ideas. She was very well trained and only started to deviate once we reached the pomelo grove, then the temptation to disobey orders was just too great. We spent the better part of 20 minutes picking fresh pomelo and feeding them to our large friend (still sitting on top, she'd just reach her trunk up to grab the fruit) each whole pomelo exploding with a large "POP" followed by a splash of juice on my legs and the wonderful smell of fresh citrus (beats elephant flatulence I tell ya!). I think I could have easily spent the rest of the day eating pomelo with Dao, but unfortunately the trip was only scheduled for 2 hours.
Unfortunately, we've been rained out today so apart from watching dodgy copies of the Simpsons (movie), Borat and Die Hard 4 we haven't done much.
A few more days at the beach and then we're off to Bangkok for our last bit of Asia. This trip is going too fast!
August 24 | Comments (0)
Our flight to Chiang Mai was uneventful and quick. We booked a hotel in the Chiang Mai airport and made our way by taxi. Chiang Mai is nice, but not amazing...the scenery is very very similar to Laos and northern Vietnam. As a staging point for treks into the mountains it's a great base, but as we've already done enough trekking on this trip we decided to cut our visit very short and head for the beach a little early. We spent lots of time wandering the streets and visiting the local markets, Jen bought a shirt but otherwise we spent lots of time browsing.
After much deliberation we left Chiang Mai after only a day and half, we flew to Bangkok and took an express bus to Trat and then the ferry to Koh Chang island. After one night on White Sand beach (we stayed at the White Sand Beach Resort, which was ok, nice bungalows but far from anything interesting) we moved to Lonely Beach. We're now staying at the Nature Beach Resort, which, aside from the nightly parties, is lovely. Aircon bungalows, fast internet, good food and a gorgeous beach...is there anything better?
August 16 | Comments (1)
We're still in Luang Prabang awaiting our flight to Chiang Mai (Thailand). We've met some lovely people, had some great meals (including the ever popular meat (chicken) stick) and indulged in massages and body scrubs. The most adventure we've had was visiting the nearby caves (by long boat) and waterfall (great swimming location, right out of a movie set). After finishing Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie, I'm now into Harry Potter and it's a struggle to leave our very comfortable porch. Everything is so relaxed here, it's going to be very tough to leave (I'll let the thought of Thailand's beaches console me).
Since not much has happend in the last week, I thought I'd write down something that Jen and I have been meaning to for a while. This is for the benefit of our friends with new children and for us when we get around to having a sprog (I'm sure there are parents who do this anyway, but so that we remember later*).
* No Mom, Jen's not pregnant! :)
Asian parenting 101
Observation 1 - Let your children run around with nothing on for as long as they want to. They'll have to wear clothes for the rest of their lives so why be a prude? The clothes will get dirty anyway and then you'll have more laundry to do. Think of it as water conservation - you're doing your bit!
Observation 2 - Don't worry so much. Let your kids get all the bumps and bruises they can, these little life lessons whilst immediately painful will teach them to be more careful next time.
Observation 3 - Let your kid eat what it likes. Unless you know it's poisonous, ground food and other delights will help them build up immunities.
Observation 4 - Don't be tempted to coddle a child that screams. Walk away, It'll stop when it realises you're not listening.
Observation 5 - Adults eat in public, why can't babies? No need to be ashamed/offended, it's natural.
That's it for now, I'm sure we'll have more before we get home. As mentioned, we're off to Chiang Mai. We'll be there for a few days before hitting the beach (not sure where yet) and reading a few more books.
August 10 | Comments (0)
Another hour on a plane, and we're in another country. We arrived in Vientiane expecting another seething mass of humanity similar to HCMC or Phnom Penh but boy were we wrong. With just over 200,000 people it feels like a tiny backwater in comparison. Everything moves just a little bit slower and the people are wonderful. For the most part, we spent our two days in Vientiane at the JoMa Bakery Cafe (near the fountain) due to the constant rain. (Try the jumbo cinnamon bun, you won't be disappointed.) In between iced coffee and cake we visited a few of the local sights, if I were visiting a second time I'd give the big golden stupa a miss as it's much better looking from a distance.
So far on this trip we've managed to avoid long distance bus travel, and our bus ride to Luang Prabang was vindication of our decision. The ride in our VIP (King of Bus) coach was meant to take 8 hours, but after 4 breakdowns and multiple stops we finally arrived nearly 11 hours later. Fortunately the scenery on the road up to Luang Prabang was the most beautiful we've seen on this entire trip. It would be nice to do the same ride on the back of a motorbike. We'll be here for a week or more so perhaps we'll hire a tuk-tuk to take us out to the country. Getting in so late, we only manged to find a cheapy guest house (Sokdee Guesthouse) that wasn't very nice. This morning we moved to the Sopha Guesthouse which is much more agreeable.
Luang Prabang itself is beautiful, I'm not at all surprised why so many people recommended it to us (before and during the trip). All there is to do here is relax, eat, get massages (1 hour = $3) and other spa treatments.
Off to get a fresh lemon juice...life is rough.
August 4 | Comments (1)
The flight to Phnom Penh was uneventful, we arrived late afternoon and found a decent hotel for a couple of nights. Most travelers stay around the lake area, we decided to skip the rats/roaches and stay just off of the river. We lucked out as the Paragon Hotel (on Sisowath Quay) was great, small room but only $15/night and very friendly and helpful staff. The next day we took a trip out to the killing fields and the Tuol Sleng museum (S 21). Both are equally disturbing and made for quite a heavy morning. After the killing fields we were offered the opportunity to go to a shooting range only 200 metres away. Somehow it just didn't seem right, so we gave it a miss. In the afternoon we went to the Russian market and the Palace (which is virtually the same as the one in Bangkok). There isn't much else to see in Phnom Penh so we decided to move on quite quickly. We heard lots of bad things about Phnom Penh before arriving, but it's not as bad as people make it out to be. Most of the main areas felt quite safe, although the difference in wealth was noticeable compared to Vietnam.
In the morning we took the fast boat to Siem Reap (5.5 hours) and compared to a bumpy bus ride the price was worth it ($23/person). Our trip included a short ride through a floating village at the very end. Watching life on the river was great, they even have a school. Siem Reap is a tiny place in comparison to the other cities we've been to on the trip, it has a nice feel to it. Our hotel is the Green Village Palace hotel, the rooms are clean and it has a great pool. On the way into town from the boat launch we met our tuk-tuk driver (Mr.Bean) for the next 2 days. Note to travelers: He's a great guy, lots of information about Angkor and very friendly. His number is (855) 12 762 085 or email email@example.com.
We both had huge expectations of Angkor and it hasn't disappointed. Angkor is definitely in the same league as the Taj, Pompeii and the Great Wall. All of the temples are amazing and well worth the steep entrance fee ($40/3 days). Our favourite is Bayon, its many faces seem to be watching your every move and walking around feels like being in your very own Indiana Jones movie. We've spent nearly 2 full days visiting all of the temples; we could visit tomorrow but I think we're both a bit templed out.
The next couple of days are going to involve eating copious amount of Amok (I've had 4 already), perhaps taking a cooking lesson and getting more massages. Tuesday we fly to Vientiane.