…entre nous soit dit…

between me you and the gatepost.

A Boat Trip. A Boat Trip. A Boat Trip… Sorry am I repeating? It felt like the trip was THAT long…

Location: Battambang

Days left in Cambodia: 7

Two days in a row of getting up at 5 am is so not cool. But hey, what you gonna do?! I had to do sunrise at Ankor Wat (it’s considered a must see) and I had to catch the ferry from Siem Reap to Battambang. Hence, no choice… Although really we could have opted to take the noon boat to Battambang instead of the 6am boat. Owell.

The boat ride was worth it I suppose in the end, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I should have, due to the fact that I kept falling asleep (which was a difficult feat in itself thanks to the lacking of space, noisy motor and wooden school chairs installed). The parts I was awake for were cool though. I wouldn’t go as far as saying amazing, but definitely interesting and worth doing.

The guide book says it can take anywhere from five to nine hours depending on the season, water levels etc. My sister said when she did it, it took them a whopping ten hours, but it only took us just under eight hours, which wasn’t as bad, but still too long for my liking. I got some good photos though. Figure I’ll load them up:

Anyways, I’m dead now and falling asleep thanks to late night, early mornings, full days and stress about uni work that I didn’t get done and handed in when it should have been (which has been taken care of now thanks to an extension). So I’m going to upload a few of the photos and then hit the hay, night!

(This last photo isn’t anything amazing. It’s just showing that there’s a school and everything out there – they even have a shitty church [damn christians spreading their disease fucking everywhere].  But there were school kids in uniforms everywhere in boats. Each of them got into their little boats and paddled for ages to the small school.

Anyways, that’s it. Night!

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, just a quick note, sleep, Travel | Leave a comment

Kraitie… is dismal.

Location: Kraitie

Days Left in Cambodia: 16

Well we are now in Kraitie.

After having a slight scare and thinking that we had somehow missed the stop and that we were going to end up at the Laos/Cambodia border (seeing as our bus’s final destination was somewhere across the border in Laos), we finally got here just after lunch time safe and sound – obviously. We had a small walk around and had a look through the markets, which were dismal, then I got me a lovely bowel of museli and yoghurt (my latest food obsession). I did get one interesting photo from our walk around the place though. I’d hate to be the guy used in the ad campaign…

There’s really nothing to do in Kraitie though.

I have no interest in going to see the dolphins – even if they are rare flat nosed dolphins. They’re still just dolphin and we’ve got plenty of them back home. I have no problem with leaving tomorrow morning. There’s nothing to do here, the accommodation is shite (but costing mum and I $2.50 each per night – Youseng Guesthouse #1), and the streets (and market across the road) smell like raw kidney. And yes, I’m aware that that is a strange comparison, but it really does take me back to the high school  days when we dissected kidneys and they smelt bad.

So we ended up hiring us a moto (and a lovely female driver who didn’t speak very much English at all) and had ourselves an hour and a half hour drive around town and out past town into the more suburban area… Well to us, we would call it the suburbs seeing as it’s the outreaches of the town, but in reality, it’s just the areas with less developed houses and lifestyles. It was pretty and interesting (and there were so many kids waving to us).

We went to a couple of pagodas on the way and they were cool enough although extremely run down and in need of some serious repair – then again there’s so many temples and old structures in Cambodia that are in need of repair, that even if you got every construction worker in Cambodia employed on them, it still wouldn’t be enough…

Overall though, Kraitie seems like a bit of a hit and miss. Sadly, that’s exactly how Mum said it would be only I was too stubborn to accept it. At least I know to say that I don’t have any desire to stay an extra day and will be quite happy leaving tomorrow I think. Nice and early, off to Sen Monorom.

Yes indeedy folks.

January 20, 2010 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, just a quick note, observation, Travel | 1 Comment

Random Thoughts

Location: A bus… somewhere…

Days Left in Cambodia: 16

Well I’m currently siting on a bus driving somewhere out in the rural area to the north east of Phnom Penh. We’re on the way out to Kraitie and Sen Monorom – two places which thus far are yet to be given a good rap by someone other than the lonely planet guide book… Actually even that doesn’t seen overly enthusiastic about Kraitie. After all, who hasn’t seen dolphins before? And that’s pretty much the only thing to do there apparently.

At least the drive is cool. I think I’ve decided that I quite like going on buses – which is just as well considering this one is five hours, the one tomorrow is another five hours. That also means it will be ten hours getting back to Phnom Penh on Sunday before getting  on a si hour bu the next morning to go to Siem Reap – 6 hours of my birthday will be sitting on a bus.

And I don’t mind at all.

That particular road to Siem Reap is supposed to be one of the prettiest roads in Cambodia. Plus I find it beautiful watching things go past. Add some mood music to it and it becomes something magical and it feels like you’re in a movie. That’s the best part.

This morning our bus left at 6.45 which is a god awful early hour in my books. The only reason someone should be awake at that hour in my opinion is I they still haven’t gone to sleep. I went to bed at close to 2am last night and woke up at 5.30 on the dot for some unknown reason.

But it was so worth it. It was worth it just for the 10 amazing seconds of driving over the big bridge in Phnom Penh and the sight that was there. It’s an overcast day so a glow was being cast with the sun barely out. Fishermen in rickety old boats were out putting out nets and the shanty shacks along the shores were still. The picture was so serene and beautiful. And the moment wouldn’t be complete without some music. Cue my iPod and the random selection of the shuffle option: ‘Riders on the Storm’ by The Doors. It’s a slow song but it was just so beautiful for that moment and it made me smile.

One of my other choice songs for sitting on buses is ‘Paper Planes’ by M.I.A. and the remix of it. It came up on shuffle but it’s just so perfect for staring out the window and watching the world rush by you. If you don’t believe me (or you’re a hater of the song) then check it out in the movie Slum dog Millionaire and you’ll see how well it works as a travel song. That movie was brilliant, and it’s soundtrack is just as amazing.

But generally anything upbeat obviously makes you smile in this situation. Ok, well, for me it does anyway. A big smile like life can’t get anymore beautiful. Like the the beauty of seeing so much shows you that the world is out there and there’s hope. There’s still so much to learn and do – there’s a purpose for everyone so long as they keep searching.

And maybe that’s it – there isn’t a purpose to life, but jut the search for it. And the journey that the search takes you on is what we’re supposed to enjoy. To always continue striving to learn and be involved – whether that be at home with a family or travelling the unknown.

There is no purpose.

Only the treasures found in the quest to discover that fact.

And I don’t  even think that’s a depressing notion. After all, to say that there is no purpose in life is to say there is no point to our existence, which sounds depressing. But somehow in a twisted way, I think it creates hope for us – because it means we can make of it what we want. There’s no pressure to do anything. Instead we can just enjoy ourselves and see the beauty in the world. And I like that.

January 20, 2010 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, just a quick note, life, observation, Personal, Travel | 1 Comment

Driving in Asia…

Location: A crazy minibus

Currently in a minibus on the way from Kampot to Sihanoukville. Drivers sure do like to ride with one hand permanently on the horn. ALWAYS. And they just love to use it as well.

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, observation, Travel | 1 Comment

Reflecting Bokor Mountain

Location: Kampot

Reflections on Bokor Mountain Climb on the 9th of January 2010:

We were told on the phone the night before that the roads were closed and hence the only option was a 3 hour trek through the jungle up the hill to where cars pick you up and take you the rest of the way up to the top. We were like “Yeh sure, whatever. That’ll be fine.” Mum asked whether or not a 50 year old lady would be able to cope with the trek and they said yes so long as she’s strong.

Mum and I both thought that out of both of us she would be the one that would end up having the bigger problem – due to her fitness level, age and strength. Only for a second did I think that I wouldn’t be able to make it. I had been really sick the week before (with possible malaria). While I was sick just the effort it takes to walking up and down the stairs to meals tired me out – let alone walking all the way to the orphanage which I couldn’t do at all. But that moment passed quick enough.

But of course we booked in anyway. We booked the 4 person tour instead of the 25 person tour because we figured that that way we wouldn’t have to wait for any fatties that would slow the group down to a crawl.

But when we went on the trek (which was actually a fucking climb), turns out that I ended up being the dreaded “fatty” that slows own the group. I almost gave up more than once and the climb almost broke me down into tears more than once. The thing is, it wasn’t a “trek” at all, but rather a 3 hour and 7 kilometre climb up a mountain where the majority of the paths run at 20 degree angles – almost practically fucking vertical. We were literally climbing up rocks at some points, which really wasn’t helped by the facts that 1. I don’t really have very long legs and 2. I only own one pair of jeans, which I was told to wear – and they’re skinny leg jeans.

The other thing that doesn’t help was the fact that we were in a group of four and the other couple was a Swiss couple. One of them didn’t even speak English – only French, and both of whom were used to high altitudes and climbing mountains seeing as where they live, mountains are about as common as kangaroos in Australia – they’re every where. So they were both practically running up every slope like mountain goats – no problems whatsoever.  And the guide, of course, had no problem seeing as he does it 2 or 3 times a week with different groups. It’s even more pathetic seeing as the guide ended up carrying mums back pack (as well as his own and the 3 litres of water he had for us all), and the Swiss guy was carrying my camera bag (which really isn’t that big). We’re pathetic.

Mum ended up being worse than me by the end of it. I guess the higher the altitude, the thinner the air was and the more I practically hyperventilated to get my breath back, and that probably made me light headed and lost feeling. Hence, I was able to struggle on. Because that’s what we both did – we struggled. Mum became slightly asthmatic the higher we got hence she was worse off than me.

I also managed to trip on a vine at one point and slammed both of my knees into slabs of rocks, resulting in two very swollen and bruised knees by the time I got to the top of the mountain, when I already have bad knees to start with. Thanks to that, the climb down became completely ridiculous to even contemplate.

So as a result of both of us being hopeless cases for the climb down, our guide organised a ranger to take us down in his truck and we just had to bribe the ranger US$5… technically it’s illegal for him to do that and we almost got stopped on the way down. Even though it was a cop out, I’m glad we did it because we got to see everything that they’re going on the mountain. I’m referring to the construction that they’re doing.

The land at the top of the mountain has just been rented out to pretty much the biggest company in Cambodia – Sokha. They’re building a ridiculously large hotel on top of the mountain. It’s going to have something like over 600 rooms/bungalows/houses in the complex, a golf course, a fake lake and everything else. It’s going to completely ruin the place, but hey, you can’t stop them can you. Apparently it’s going to take 15 years for them to finish all the construction and at least another year just to get the road to the top finished (currently it is a dirt track that they are widening, clearing around and preparing to lay bitumen on). But they have a 99 year lease on the place so who cares right? And 99 years is just enough time to completely ruin the uniqueness and beauty of the abandoned hill. I don’t think I even want to go back there when it’s finished because it will just be unrecognisable.

Anyway, because of all the destruction that they have going on now in order to simply finish the road, they don’t allow the tourists to go up and down the road at all (heck, they hardly allow locals). They even make the tourist groups enter the jungle in a different original spot so that they really do steer clear of it all.

But at the end of the day, and despite our cop out, I’m glad that we went up there. It was well worth it. The jungle itself was pretty enough, not that you really focus on it while climbing, but the top of the mountain is the amazing part. Although it was sad to see the amount of rubbish that’s littered up there. Even our tour guide threw his lunch wrappings and bags into the scrub until he realised all four of us were staring at him and packing our empty ones away into our own backpacks so as not to litter. He picked it up fast enough. From the top balcony of the abandoned hotel you can see spots where obviously some of the locals or rangers sit up there at night and drink beer. When it’s finished they usually just drop it over the edge so it smashes or lands on roofs below.

It sort of sad though seeing as the Cmabodians are unable to protect the area. The land was considered to be made a World Heritage Site in the 1990s, but because of the government’s inability to protect the site, the initiative was put to an end. If that wasn’t bad enough, not only can’t they protect a naturally beautiful piece of lad, but it’s the fact that it’s a piece of their history as well. The Khmer Rouge and the Viets fought on this hill in the seventies because it was a significant vantage point. There were big shoot outs in all areas and each of the abandoned buildings was used as hideouts. There’s even a spot in the casino room of the hotel where bullet holes still remain in the wall. It’s evident that someone was stood in front of the wall to be killed because there’s no other possible way for the holes to have got there – they’re on the inside and even if they had come from outside, on the other side of the wall there is about 15 metres to the edge of the cliff where there’s a good 50 metre drop off.

The abandoned hotel itself is beautiful though. All of the abandoned sites on top of the hill were. The hotel was even used as the shooting site for a movie called City of Ghosts. Take a look at the pictures:

The entry to the hotel has this lovely “NO ENTRY DANGER” sign out the front which is very clearly ignored every single day (and probably night). Truth is, I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days part of it actually did collapse. But it’s truly beautiful. And I think one of the things that makes all of these buildings just that much more beautiful in a unique way is that they all have orange moss. Now, I’m very used to green moss, or heck, even black moss. It’s rife back home. But orange moss is something else to behold and just looks that much more stunning on an abandoned site. Green is such a lively colour, but orange gives it a more creepy feeling of the unknown. From a distance, it makes it look like the rest of the building was supposed to be that colour, but over time it’s faded – hence making it seem even more run down and abandoned.

The picture above was taken in the huge casino room of the hotel. There were some gorgeous windows (above and centre) that were just too perfect for a photo. Then I realised that there was a patch of light coming in from a side window and all of a sudden it seem too good to be true – such an excellent natural set up for a photo shoot. If only I had some models and some gorgeous clothes to put them in. But alas no. All I had was my mother and her extremely incompetant skills at photography (and taking directions on how to set up the photo). After three attempts to tell her how it should be set up, the above photo was finally taken, although she still managed to cut off the top of the windows which were supposed to be in the frame. She fails. On the bright side, I think I may have talked her into taking a photography course with her time off on long service leave this term. Finally. YAY.

And lastly just one photo from the church, because I can’t be bothered putting up all the other photos as well. It’s just a picture from the inside door way looking into where the altar still stands. The walls in there are grafittied something chronic – from the days when the war was still going as well as from recent years of tourism. It’s horrible really.

But overall, despite the immense pain that my legs felt the rest of the night and the next morning, I’d say that the climb was worth it and anyone that ends up in Kampot should definitely do it (providing they are fit enough to get up and back down).

January 10, 2010 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, photography, Travel, war | 2 Comments

Kampot is here!

Location: Kampot

This is a snap shot from tonight’s cruise down the river for sunset. I took a lot more photos, but I figured I’d only post one. It was with my shitty little camera (the new one admittedly) and I was playing with the effects on it.

We also went for a bit of a walk around town and it seems dead. Like honestly dead – like a freaking ghost town. It’s almost creepy. And apparently there’s only one bar that’s actually open late late here. Which is weird after having been to Phnom Penh before… But owell. I think tomorrow we’re going to do a tour of Bokor Mountain which is something that I really wanted to do, so I’m happy.

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, photography, Travel | 1 Comment

New Years Eve 09/10

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Well the night didn’t start off as anything very exciting… We had to wait for almost an hour while Petia and Sigrid got ready – mean while I’m starving my arse off!

But eventually we went and got spring rolls and a drink at an absolutely deserted place. Then we headed to the Riverside Restaurant, which while having los of people there, wasn’t very exciting and was over priced.

So we moved on to Chivas Shack for the $1.75 cocktails. I skipped out on that round and instead went in search of a joint. A couple of streets over I found the place I’d been told I could one from, The Red Fox. I was denied at first because I didn’t want to buy a drink – just a joint. So I sat and talked to a 60 or 70 year old guy who was completely and utterly baked. He managed to score me a joint when he went to get another one with a beer. So I said thanks and left him.

Then I went back to Chivas – just in time to be introduced to the new guy in the group as Mum’s “weed child”. So I sat their smoking and everyone else drank until finally Mum turned to me and said, “So are you going to share that or what?!?” So then everyone shared it – including my now stiff uptight and prudish mother who previously used to smoke back in the 60’s and 70’s. Turns out the newcomer was actually a guy who did some teaching at Mum’s school, which freaked me out quite a bit seeing as she’d just introduced her child as a pot head to a colleague more or less.

He told us the place to be was definitely the Foreign Correspondents Club (FCC). It’s normally really busy there, but it was packed for new years. It was awesome as we were told it would be. We only just made it to the top floor as the countdown started, and we were standing on top of tables on the balcony trying to see the fireworks down riverside when the clock finally ticked over. It was pretty cool… Although it didn’t seem like such a great place when we learnt that seeing as it had been so busy, they were out of pretty much all the alcohol. So, we had a choice of mojitos or bourbon or beer. Seeing I hate bourbon and not the biggest fan of beer, I was mojitos all the way!

Mum had left by this stage and there were only five of us left including Mum’s colleague (who it turns out was only 22 when I thought he was way closer to 30). So we went to get some “happy pizza” and then after another two group joints, we headed off to this club called ‘The Heart of Darkness’ that Daniel (Mum’s colleague) knew about.

You could just walk through the door of that place and it was like a wave of disgust washed over you as soon as you looked around. It was honestly the seediest place I’ve ever seen or been to. It was absolutely horrible and disgusting. There were so many prostitutes in that place that you couldn’t walk more than a step without being surrounded by them. And to match that fact, there were a large amount of seedy old westerner men there checking out every girl with beady perverted eyes and chatting up girls who looked like they were around 15.

Horrible place and I’d never recommend it ever. It had a cool symbol for the logo though. And it’s probably going to be the only club you’ll ever see where they have traditional religious statues inside the club while it still acting in full swing as a raging whoring club.

Overall a good night, although I went home early at around 2.30ish. I wasn’t much in the mood for partying without friends, because I was tired, and because I’d had to sort out the fight with Dom over the phone as well before midnight. I didn’t still want to be in the middle of a fight when the clock ticked over and I was already so emotionally exhausted from all of that.

Anyways. That’s about it for the moment I guess.

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Cambodia/Vietnam Trip, Celebrations, drugs, drunk/drinking, experiences, Travel | 5 Comments