Published: March 23rd 2008February 19th 2008
On the train
looking a bit stunned for some reason??
I have just spent the last 1 hour writing this blog then accidently managed to loose it all...despite the autosave feature! So the second time round might be a bit rubbish and much shorter!!
Hi to everyone,
I have a few things to say first:
Happy Birthday MARK you old git! ...hugs from me and kisses from Stu xxxxx
Marie and Ben....we are thinking of you, our fingers are crossed.
Sorry we haven't been in touch but we have been moving around a fair bit and haven't had time. Also the internet has been more expensive in Thailand....and often slower.
Thank you to everyone who has sent us messages, its great to get them.
Hope you all had a good easter!
Apologies in advance to Powells...for the lack of school boy humour compared to Stu's blog, ...but parents will be reading too!
We are writing these blogs from Little India in Singapore, and there is someone in the internet cafe who keeps farting and it stinks! Not nice!
We will try and remember everything we have done over the last month and hopefully make sense.
After a long day at the
temples we were left saddle sore and happy to never see another temple again! It was a great sight, but we were looking forward to moving on to Thailand. We were heading for Chang Mai in the north.
We were up at 5.30am again. Can you imagine how happy Stu was about that ?and not even any surf at the end? We opted for a taxi for the 3 hour journey to the border, rather than the unreliable buses. (costing us $30) It was worth it. The road was a long, potholed dusty track. The landscape was barren and uninteresting. There was the ever present threat of unexploded landmines, and bandits and gun crime. The taxi had to dodge bicycles, dogs, cows and chickens. We watched the sun rise and Cambodia come to life. People on their way to work. Kids walking to school in sparkling white uniforms, despite the air being think with dust.
The ever present environmental disaster in Asia (and elsewhere), that is the plastic carrier bag, littered the route. It's been a sad site wherever we have been, whether in a rural area of Thai jungle, or upriver in deepest Borneo, up mountains or
Air Asia here we go
Looking tired and stunned!
snorkelling on coral reefs, the place is covered in literally 1000's of carrier bags. We must recycle/reuse more!
Our taxi driver was a quiet soul. He would periodically and without warning stop the car suddenly in the middle of the road and shout 'pissing stop', and get out and pee in the road.
We passed through many shanty towns and stopped at one for breakfast. The usual fodder on sale for the tourists, pringles and coca-cola, but bizzarely they also sold Jack Daniels.....not that we indulged at 7am. We opted for a hot drink and bananas. We hoped for a tea, (Cambodian tea is good stuff), but after much effort they brought us coffee from a house down the street. The 10 yr old serving reappeared proudly with 2 grubby shot glasses filled with luke warm tar like liquid which turned to a treacle like substance when a dollop of condensed milk was added. In a typical British fashion we drank it like it was delicious, smiling graciously.
After a kidney bruising 3 hours we arrived in Poipet, which I wouldn't recommend. It has a real dangerous wild west feel about it. There was nothing good there except
the border to Thailand. We queued up to get our visas checked. We were the only western faces around. We had heard that there was a lots of smuggling and illegal crossings here. Apparently there was also a Khmer Rouge presence. Hundreds of locals queued in the hot sun to cross the border and were faced with strict searches. We were ushered into an a/c building, and passed through immigrations and customs easily and were met with a smile.
The border town in Thailand was called Arrunya Pathet. We had heard it was not nice, but found it a pleasure after Cambodia. It was cleaner, friendlier and greener. We took a VIP bus to Bangkok (4 hours) It cost 300 B - which was 3x more than the locals paid but that was the deal! But it was a good bus, comfy roomy, a/c. We stopped off on the way and filled up with fab Thai street food from the hawkers.
The downside of the bus was that the man sat behind me who coughed, spluttered and generally moved mucus around his chest, mouth, throat and nose continually. This practise is commonplace is asia, no matter where
The smallest coffee shop in the world
We met a lovely Thai lady here, who told us loads of interesting stuff about the area.
you are, or how old you are, or what sex. After a few minutes of the snorting noise, great globules of mucus are spat onto the floor, again no regard for the surrounding environment. This happens on buses, trains or in restaurants. They have obviously not heard of droplet infection and I hold this man personally repsonsible for the chesty cough/cold I later developed. Admittedly there is a huge pollution problem especially in Vietnam and Cambodia....and due to the cheap fags, everyone smokes!
Anyway, we took a tuk tuk to the train station hoping to get the overnight train to Chang Mai. We were fiercely disappointed to find there were no sleeper seats left. We had already been travelling nearly 12 hours and did not want to spend any more time in Bangkok so we took a plane. This Air Asia flight would be the first of many. Not pleasant, but cheap and functional.
We took a train to the old airport Don Meung, it cost 5 B! amazing for a 45 min journey ( 63B = 1 pound). It took us through rush hour Bangkok. The train was packed. The thai people find us hilarious! Apparently it
At the food market
This was our fave stall, this man was a genius at work.
was our height! and ridiculously large back packs, so they said...maybe I had my skirt tucked in my knickers! However, they were incredibly helpful and friendly, making sure we got off at the right stop and waving to us out of the train window.
We arrived in Chang Mai after a short flight. Stupidly we let the tour agent who booked our flight also book us a room for the night. We were collected at the airport, and taken to a different hotel ...and given the hard sell for tours and more nights. By this time we were tired and hungry and not taking any shit! With Stu's sarcasm and a stony glare or so from me we were on our way to our actual hotel. It wasdated musty and dirty. We put up the mossie net and went out in search of a beer. (It was called the BMP! The back packers meeting place.....I wouldn't recommend it!)
It was already quite late and arriving in any new place after dark is never good. We strolled into the worst bit of town. It was touristy and loud and brash. Stalls selling all types of fakes. There was a
huge court of seafood restaurants, with tanks of sorry looking lobsters and snapper, selling overpriced, poor food. Filled with tourists drinking expensive beer. Middle aged fat balding men, with younger scantily clad oriental ladies on their arms... You could get any kind of massage on the steet. It was tacky! And there were no locals around. The worst site was a middle aged lady wearing a cap made out of carlsberg tins..(although I did look for a stella one for you dad!)
However, after a few chang beers (that stuff is 6.4%!) it was all looking better. We headed back to the hotel and climbed inside the mossie net and fopund that there were more bugs inside than out, large bed bugs! Horrible looking things, but the room was full of mosquitoes, so tha net had to stay up. It was too late to change hotels, so we had to stay. We were up very early and went on the search for a new place to stay.
By daylight, chang mai was a different place. We hadn't even got inside the city walls to the old town ( it had a moat around it!) It was much better. We
found a guesthouse called 'smile' that had basic clean rooms, but a fab terrace with a small pool. We checked in. the staff were a little frosty, obviously the smiles had all run out. But we were just relieved to be there. Although thailand is much more develoed than Cambodia and Vietnam, the quality of accomadation was quite poor in comparison. For 20$ a night you would get almost 5 * luxury in Cambodia. The room would be large, clean.,a/c, sat tv. In thailand 400 B got you a room with fan, no frills, mould in the bathroom and cold water. But what the hell, you don't spend much time in your room!
We spent the next 2 days exploring Chang Mai, what a difference a day makes?? It was super friendly! Really pretty and clean in places. We found some great hawker food stalls, that all the locals ate at. The famous pad thai, delicious, BBQ, at cheap cheap prices. I could have spent a lot longer in Chang Mai. But we had things to get on with. The town was a maze of small streets with Wats and temples on each corner. Buddhist monks walked around. We
We think number 11 should win!
got lost frequently, but it was fun and relaxed. There was a seedier side to it, I spotted a massage parlour called climax! But it was mainly in one end of town, so it was not in your face.
There was a handicraft/hippie market on sundays, it was really cool......there was nothing much worth buying, but it was really interesting
It seemed that the standard thing to do in N thailand was to do some jungle trekking, and we had been lugging our boots around all this time. We were a bit wary of the tours as there were so many, and our mekong delta tour had been mediocre at best. But we chose carefully and had high hopes for a good time. After we booked the tour we checked out an internet cafe, in order to book our flights to the south when we got back from the trek. It had been a hot day and I had a full blown cold by this point, and here my blame lies. Somehow I lost a day! and booked the flights a day early. ( Obviously giving Stu the perfect opportunity to enjoy every moment of my inept organisation!) Air
Asia being a budget airline with hidden costs charge nearly as much to change the tickets as they were to buy. Additionally we could only change them at an offical Air Asia desk....which was based in TESCO's 20mins out of town (sorry mum I had to go in!......we didn't look at anything and spat on the way out! ) 1 hour and 35 pounds later it was all sorted, (thanks to the girls in the trekking tour office who were amazingly helpful!). I have to say since that time, I think Stu and I are now equal again on cock ups!!
The next day we headed out to the jungle.!
There are more photos below