A Travellerspoint blog

Starkbierzeit

Munich & Bremen

sunny 7 °C

This was diarised on my old-style un-smart mobile phone as I went along..

THURSDAY
Tram train flight train hostel. Easy. It was right opposite the train station. Lashing it down though. Met Hannah and Japanese guy (JG) who didn't speak English. I got bunk above him. Went out to find an Irish bar only because it was St Patrick's day. Found a massive umbrella lined queue. German bar with the football then. Then back to Kilian's when queue died down, which was mixed with Ned Kelly's. Different wavelength though. Dodging the rain not very well and with a super cold and wet head, headed back. The top bunk has to be the squeakiest and noisiest ever. Even when I just turn over. Paranoid. Poor JG


FRIDAY
These hostel pissers are ace. Zero splashback due to simple wire mesh. All pissers should have them. Not too keen on the shit shelf bog though. Urgh! Gag! That's just wrong. That's worse than any crapper I've used in Asia.
Went on a walking tour with Sonja from Sandemans. Fascinating. Munich looks old but only because they rebuilt it after the war to look like that. They didn't bomb the church towers or the gold leaf statue so they could use them for flight navigation. Hitler was a coward and dodged a bullet literally and figuratively many times before he came into power. So very cold though. Everyone was shivering. Met Gina who came down for an interview and said the boys in the dorm across from her were pissed as fuck last night and were from Manchester :o) Fingers crossed she gets the job. On tour end, Sonja told everyone her favourite quote. Funny, that was what was on my tee.

I got back to hostel and the bed above Hannah was now spare. I moved to the less squeaky one. JG looked forlorn.

Seeing as it's Starkbierzeit I went along to Lowenbrau for the festival. As I'd queried in advance they reserved me a seat on a table in the vast hall near the front, alongside the chief of Schindler (lifts not list). Wow! Many people were dressed up, the herren in lederhosen und die damen in breast enhancing durndle. Couldn't understand a word what was going on but it was very entertaining. Bient, the overly aftershaved but friendly man next to me kept me included in the proceedings and introduced me to Kora and Katrina and Eva (die said damens mit eyepopping durndles mit their damenkartoffels). There was a strong man contest, which I should have entered as only three entered and there were prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd and although I would never have lifted that small car weighted stone, I'd have done better than the Jarvis Cocker looking guy who came third. There was a beauty comp too. Aye carumba. Better to have a table near the front. Throughout many eye catching Prost!s and a couple of offered snuffs, I think I only had four starkbier Mass, delightfully called Triumphator, but I think that is also the equivalent to eight Special Brews
.

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SATURDAY
Mein kopf! Das ist nicht gut. Was ist in das bier? The dorm is empty apart from me and JG who is forever on his laptop (why is he here? Why isn't he out exploring? If only we could talk). I seem to recall some new inmate squeaking on a top bunk. Jesus! Will you stop moving in the night? Some people are trying to sleep. Hannah has left so it's time for me to get a ground floor bed. JG looks at me like I'm eventually going to annex his mattress. In time JG, in time. Think I need to move mattresses though as I'm getting bitten. and I don't mean please. It's 11.30. That would explain the emptyness. I think a slow reflective day to find the United memorial is in order.

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Found it in a nice quiet neighbourhood. Afterwards, nipped into a local hostelry. Got chatting (I doff my hat to english speaking germans) to a lovely old married couple who told me how this place was heaving in 2008 with Manchester folk for the the 50th anniversary since the diaster. Alas, after learning how to properly Prost! and after 2 more weisse biers than I had planned, on a football related note I needed to find a boozer back in the centre that had the match on. It was definitely on, I read it in Sport Bild. Ooh, get me. Saw Hannah at hostel. Apologised profusely for taking her bed but she had already checked out in the morning. Found match, predictably in the Irish bar, but forgot it was the Ireland v England match, therefore 9 out of 10 screens showing egg chasers. Left to catch pub crawl but got train going opposite direction so missed the meet up. Thought I could predict the route and possibly catch them.
I couldn't.
And didn't.

SUNDAY
A gorgeous day to find a tower in the city to climb and see the Alps. Methinks the marketing men have doctored those posters. I couldn't even see a hill. Old St Peter's is the best tower and also amazing inside too. No wanking (wanken verboten?) or farting inside though (as if anyone would) if the signs are to be believed. Maybe they're intended for priests. After some liver dumplings and sauerkraut und die obligatory weisse bier mit umpah band I went for a wander around the English Garden. Fascinated at the surfing they have there. Could have watched it for hours. But didn't. After another obligatory bier in a bier garten I mosied on back to catch the pub crawl. Although they were at pains to say it wasn't a pub crawl, as they were not doing it to get people drunk, so they called it a beer challenge. Not quite sure that works better. Don't really think it was worth the money but met a few nice Australians, Americans a lovely Irish couple and an annoying American.

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MONDAY
Train to Füssen to see Ludwig II of Bavaria's Schloß Neuschwanstein. Whilst masticating a fish and fish sauce baguette, I saw on the map it is close to town called Wank. Quality! Alas, I didn't have the time to make it there for the hilarious and childish photos and souvenirs I could have got. Arse!

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This train journey is beautiful; an hour into it and I can see the snow capped Bavarian Alps beyond the golf course like meadows dotted with the odd wooden hut. Don't see any grazing animals though. How is the grass so well manicured? The castle is absolutely picturesque, looks amazing and set amongst an incredibly scenic alpine backdrop. Best place to see it was from Marien Brücke (Mary's Bridge). Full of tourists though. One chinese lady gave me the internationally recognised symbol for "can you take my photo with castle in the background?" ie. she thrust her camera to me. So I did. I did the same with another chinese lady and the photo she took was of me blocking the castle. What the fuck?? You're a rubbish photo taker woman.

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The actual tour of the inside was also rubbish as too many people were on it but inside the castle is just as awesome. I got a bus back to Füssen and had two hours to kill. What a pretty little city this is, old style, mountainous on one side and an emerald green river running by it. I finished off my mini walking tour in a bakery in the old quarter with a scrumptiously tasty chili con carne served mit fine blades of chili und freshly baked bröt that hit the target smack in the middle. Now to get the bahn back zur München to get the nacht bahn zur Bremen. Inbetween trains I get another curried bratwurst and a beer. Need to stop eating these sausages.
The night train was tiny. It felt very intimate with three girls in a 6 bed compartment. Good job there wasn't 6 of us. Perhaps that last curried meal wasn't the best idea. After a couple of tinnys I drifted off to sleep on the clothes line width bed. The guard woke us up when we were approaching Bremen by tickling our faces with a feather on the end of a stick but then we found out there had been a leak and all our clothes were muddy. Then I woke up again due to bumpy train and was not muddy. Dreams within dreams about the immediate vicinity. Some kind of inception thing going on.

TUESDAY
Arrived in Bremen very early and was greeted by a sign in the station clearly stating no guns, bats or knives after 8pm. That's promising. And before then it's ok? Got here 2 hours before the hostel reception opened. Fortunately it was a lovely day and although being exhausted I found the walk around with few people about quite peaceful. So far it's a lovely city but I fear I may have seen most of it already. Tiredness soon crept up on me and I found the hostel and they let up in early as there was space. It's nowhere near as good as the Munich one; the beds are uncomfy, kitchen is dark and dingey and the shower's crap too, you have hold it with one hand. And I left my handy hand-luggage sized shower bottle back at t'other one. Scheiss! Cant fault the hostel on that score. To be fair though the staff are lovely and friendly.

Little nap then bit more exploring. I did want to do a tour of the Becks Brewery but it's not open on the days I'm here. Bremen has a great old central market place with lots of interesting buildings and the Schnoor area of the city reminds me of Chester or some old Cornish village but I think my fear has come to reality and there's not much else to see now. Just got to find a statue of a rooster on a cat on a dog on a donkey. As you do. Apparently it's very easy to find but elusive to me so far.

Trams whizz past me frequently. I can't help thinking that Manchester lost an opportunity to have lower trams and platformless boarding. They could stop them anywhere and change it without building stops.

Found the statue. Doh!
Now what to do?

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Back to the hostel for PC and TV. I've missed keeping up with what's going on in the world like in NZ, Japan or Libya and I've been lost without knowing who has just decided to have a takeaway for tea or how much someone really likes their son or daughter. Or cat. Or dog. Or Michael McIntyre.

I noticed later when out for food and obligatory beer that when I do try and speak in German I tend to affect a Bavarianesque accent, almost Arnie style... "I liiiiied". I'm sure I do this with French and Spanish too but almost inevitably ending up sounding Welsh or Indian. Wendian? Not sure whether it's trying to overcompensate for my lack of flowing foreign dialogue. I thought I was ok with German. At least I can ask for most things. It's when they come back with something I'm screwed. For example I could ask for a train ticket to Bremen, a wheat beer, where is the toilet and could I order a curried sausage and some cheese please. If they then replied "Would you like fries with that?", I'd be knacked.

Found a, and to be honest I have been looking for the neglected bars, neglected bar. I think they are more original and local. With broken English and German, the thirsty Bremens and Iris behind the bar managed to provide me with things to do tomorrow. 


WEDNESDAY
Fucking bed bugs. I'm swapping beds. Literally. I'm not moving, I'm swapping mattresses. Bus to Worpswede which is a quaint little artists village an hour from and had a gorgeous afternoon strolling in the sun and through the forest listening to woodpeckers rap the bark and wagtails and chaffinches flutter amiably by.

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My last night. Went back to the old pub (amongst several others) and realised it doesn't have the smoking ban. Well it does, or should, but it's out of the way so nobody notices but now my clothes stink of stale smoke. Apparently this is a Werder Bremen prematch pub. Found another olde worlde pub around Böttcherstr. I'll have to put my coat in for a double wash now.
Harumph!

THURSDAY
The plan was to go on a boat trip up the river before my early arvo flight but it's cold and misty so won't see anything. Had a bit of a mooch to see the town in a different light. A much more diffused light. Then as I was walking back to collect my bag from the hostel, the clouds rose and left and with them went the chill. Now I had to decide should I do the boat trip. Thing is, it returns at 1pm and the gate closes at 1.40pm and I also wanted to walk to the airport, just because you can as it's that close. Hmmm. I sat on a bench next to the pier, soaking up the sun and umming and ahhing waiting for the trip to start.

After reading another funny chapter of How Not to Grow Up, I reasoned that the time to get through airport security is an unknown quantity. The boat departed. I got up, flung my holdall over my shoulder and walked into the sun like Dr Bruce Banner used to do, albeit with a less purposeful gait.

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Posted by suggs69 26.03.2011 04:32 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

London Calling

An Audience with Her Majesty

sunny 20 °C

High

As a New Zealand citizen currently residing in Britain we were eligible to be in the ballot to be a guest of the NZ High Commission at one of the three Royal Garden Parties at Buckingham Palace. Sunny informed me of this so we both submitted an application, putting each other as our guest.

I got drawn.

It also meant I had to get a suit.

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Smoke

I watched the shadow of the train silently glide over the grassy fields where a dog played with it's owner. A murder of crows are startled and take flight. The train leaned into the corner, the parallel tractor lines cut through the field of shining rape seed and swept past the village with white hatted old dears bowling towards the jack.

I went down to the smoke on the Sunday to catch up with a few friends. To be honest, I'm not a big fan of London - too big, too busy, too dirty, too unfriendly - but Sunny had a great flat in Hammersmith which showed me a different side of the city I hadn't seen before. Above a rowing club on the Thames with a beautiful riverside walk and more importantly some great ye olde pubs dotted along. Check out The Dove next time you're down to see the smallest pub room in world (allegedly - although Norris McW's signature was there to prove it at the time) and where Rule Britannia was penned.

I caught up with Nikki the next day for lunch, before a quick meander around the Natural History Museum and then met up with the others in great little comedy night I found under the Phoenix near Oxford Circus. Dee & Danny, Droo and Nikki & Charlie joined Sunny and I but as we were invited to sit at the front, we also got picked on a little. Grrrr. Superb night though - sometimes a bit hit and miss as they were trying out new material for their Edinburgh shows. Jack Whitehall was on and he'd recently been exposed the previous day by the NotW for doing "deadly drugs" up in Manchester the week before but he shrugged it off and put in an outstanding show.

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Some bobbins news was that a comic genius died that day. RIP Chris Sievey - Frank Sidebottom - Little Frank. He'll be sorely missed. You know he will. He really will.

Pint

Sunny got her nails done.

I had a pint.

We got suited and booted and set off in the blistering sun towards Buckingham Palace. Sunny looked divine and inspired me to splash out on a new tie to match her dress. The underground was like a sauna. I not a big fan of wearing ties and this tubular oven made it worse.

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We went to the back door of Buck Pal as advised as the front can get busy but I think everyone followed this advice. Once past the security checks we strolled around the gardens. It was quite surreal, it reminded me of what a park may have looked like in Victorian times with everyone in their Sunday best, nobody running and nobody sitting on the grass. The average age was quite high I'd say. Reckon even I was in the lower 10%.

Wandering through to the main garden the queues at the tea tent were bigger than festival queues. There were actually cucumber sandwiches without the crusts. Brilliant! They had other stuff though so I filled up my plate and had the obligatory cup of tea. To be honest, I actually wanted a cup of tea. Tea on the lawn at Buck Pal. It was so so hot during the day - I feel sorry for those Beefeaters in all their garb. I saw a few old ladies being tended to by the St Johns. The Queen arrived and sat in the Royal tent. The Army and RAF bands alternated at each end of the garden playing funky swing tunes, although they only seemed to last five minutes and by the time we'd wandered over to one, they stopped and the other started - come on guys!

We wandered into the palace and spoke to one of the hands there who said there is up to 8000 guests here and last year it leathered it down and everyone tried to cram into the palace - yes, cram in - they only open a couple of rooms. These guests included politicians, mayor and mayoresses, military staff, members of the public who were either nominated for helping a charity or community and then guests of an embassy. One did feel that we were probably the less deserving to be here.

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Cheers

When we went back out everyone was lined up and four deep. Liz and Phil were going walkabout. We saw Prince Philip easily enough but all you could see of Her Maj was her yellow hat hovering around. We backed off from the crowds and a gentleman with a top hat approached us and asked if we wanted to chat with the Countess of Wessex. Of course we do. "Who's the Countess of Wessex?", I thought, not really down with the royals. After being placed on a certain spot in the line she was taking, we told the usher who/where/why/how and then he introduced us. "Good afternoon your royal highness" we were asked to say and we duly did. After a couple of minutes of talk (which was mainly - yes we're from NZ, no not originally, yes we met there, no we're not partners, yes we both came to UK, no not together, yes we both work for NHS, no not together, in separate cities - phew!) - she moved on. Rivetting stuff.

I went to get a glass of water, came back and Sunny was talking to another top hatted fellow. I walked briskly over to see if I was missing out on something and said the same who/where/why to the usher. I had no idea who we were meeting and then Prince Edward was introduced to us. "Good Afternoon", I said. Whoops! Similar small talk then "Cheers". Whoops! Not really down with this lingo either. He seemed alright though, not as posh talking as I imagined. Oh and she was Sophie, his wife. Ahh!

We wandered round the gardens some more - the area is a lot smaller than I thought - I guess I was thinking more Balmoral or Blenheim but I suppose we are in centre of London where land is at a premium. Sunny snook her camera out a few times and chatted to chain of office wearing mayors - she was in her element here. Nearer the end, most other people were switching on their phones and snapping away. So rude. There were also lots of plastic cups left on the grass around the gardens. I can't believe the crassness of some people, they get invited to somebody's house and drop litter. Tcha!

And that was it. It was ok. It was an experience and unique at that, but I didn't think it was terribly exciting. All rather staid. However, it was an important piece in the three day trip to London in which I thoroughly enjoyed the time, places and people.

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Wine

At the end we went out through the palace and through the front gates to the gaping mouths of the tourists at the fences taking pictures. Felt very VIP-y. We then crossed over the road and met up with Dee and Droo for a feast of a picnic in Green Park before catching my train back.

I took my tie off.

The three quarter lit moon bounced off the darkened fields to produce a hazy jade veneer finish. Lumps of sheep appeared haphazardly along the way with jet black hedges inking the outlines of the quadralateral meadows.

Posted by suggs69 24.06.2010 05:23 Archived in England Tagged events Comments (0)

Cambodia Complete at Christmas

Stop the Cavalry

sunny
View Laos & Cambodia on suggs69's travel map.

Serendipity

Monkey republic, as recommended by Zoe the manager of Angkor What? was full so got a room at Mick and Craig's which was adequate. It's quite a busy coastal town and lots of guesthouses were booked up so I was fortunate to get one with a decent location. Well, at least it was close to Serendepity beach, which I then had a peek at and saw more people in one place than I have in the last six weeks. It was quite a shock. Later I met Sam and Lisa again and had a night out with them and their friends down at the beach bars.

The following day was pretty much a half beach day, wolfing down one of the many advertised traditional sunday roasts, followed by the United v City game (thanks Susan). Ross arrived, and Rachel & Alison made it down too. So good to see them again. Not long after, I had to retire as I think I'm coming down with something again. My throat feels like someone has been hard at it with a bastard file and my bum has been struggling again for a few days (I think it was the burger & half I ate at the posh hotel in Siem Reap).

Ream

Sam's ill too but not up for travel so Lisa and I and 18 other passengers spent a relaxing day tootling around Ream National Park, down the river, past the mangroves and into the sea and stopping at a deserted beach followed by small trek and a barracuda BBQ lunch. Yum!

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That night I caught up with everyone again briefly.. including Cath (Skycity Auckland) & Grant, before heading back early to give my body the rest it needs. To aid this, I switched my phone on silent.

Snow

YAY!!! It snowed on my birthday. Ok, so that was back in Manchester and where I am it is totally the opposite. The strongest sun and blue sky yet. So, first up, open my carD. Thanks mam - she gave it me months ago :o)

I checked my phone. Hmmm, quite a few missed calls overnight. Ooops. I switched my phone back off silent. Thanks to anyone who tried to phone and thanks to everyone who sent txt messages, facebook wall scrawls and emails. I saw them bit by bit over the next few days and they were very much appreciated.

As I'll be out of contact for a few days I thought it'd be prudent to check the flight situation from Bangkok. Bloody hell. This what I don't need on my birthday. The situation has got worse and my flight on the 9th has been cancelled. I spent the next couple of hours getting nowhere fast. I couldn't get hold of Eva Air in Bangkok for love nor money and when I phoned their Phnom Penh office, they initially asked if I could make my own way to Taiwan to catch a flight on the 5th (same distance from me as Sri Lanka) and when I said tht wasn't really a possibility due to time, distance, money and possibly visa, they asked why I was bothering to phone them anyway and not Bangkok, "cause I'm in Cambodia now", I told them. They'll call me back. Sure. I emailed both my travel agent and insurance, Trailfinders and InsureAndGo, to see what assistance they could offer.

Later I checked: Joanne at Trailfinders was wonderful and changed my flight to the 7th, which was leaving from a nearby military airport. I couldn't say the same for InsureAndGo, who pretty much washed their hands and said there is nothing in the policy for such circumstances if I had to travel further to get to a different airport (eg. Taiwan).

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Looking on the brightside, the sun's shining brightly and my bum's better, (you'll like this, I know you do) I'm more confident farting and they're nice and vocal now rather than the fingers-crossed-clench-buttocks-and-run-for-it type emissions. My throat is still bad though.
After a breakfast I wandered down to the beach to catch up with Rachel, Alison, Richard, Ross, Cath, Lisa, Sam and later Nicola, Jo and Grant. It was such a fabulous day spending time amongst great company (I was worried two months ago when I realised I could have my birthday on my own). It was all kushty: just chillin' out, relaxing in the sun and the sea, sipping cubre libres.

Later we went for a beautiful french meal (steak avec sauce au fromage bleu since you ask) with the obligatory wine, beer, and shots thrown in for good measure afterwards down at the beach bars. Could there be any downside to this?

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ahhhhhhhhh

Of course, the hangover the following morning.

Ouch! Ooh! It's too warm outside, it's too bright, but I had a boat booked. I ventured down to meet Ross, Sam and Lisa, stopping to quaff a dog's hair on the way, to catch the vessel to Koh Russei, informally known as Bamboo Island.

Planets

Wow! This place is amazing. A tonic to the soul. This is more beautiful than 72 virgins waiting for a suicide bomber. As recommended by Jen and Coll (and now us), we went to Koh Ru Bungalows, which are relatively new and they're still building the dorm (at a blistering rate - it should be finished by the time I post this).

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View from our bungalow

It was such a relaxed three days. My hangover went. We just did hardly anything. There were no hawkers and sellers on the beach to hassle us. Maybe we snorkelled, maybe threw a frisbee or two, maybe played cards at night, maybe read a book. But generally did nothing but lie there on the beach or in a hammock. Or look up at the super clear sky at night and stare at the stars (and Venus and Jupiter too).

Normally this would bore me but it was the perfect prescription for the previous days of partying. Perfect.

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Betty Swollocks

I've finally made it to Bangkok after a marathon four bus journey and now that the airport is open again I can fly away.

I didn't want to do the 12 hour journey from Sihanoukville to Bangkok. I wanted to stop half way and stop by Koh Samet but needs must and the political situation at Bangkok airport forced my hand so I was staring at a day on buses followed by a day on a plane followed by a trip from London to Manchester.

Just travelling for three days is not the best way to end one's trip but this is the way the cookie crumbled. Starting at 8 in the morning, I endured a four hour back, sacks and crack sweat-fest on a plastic seated bus and a three hour border crossing at midday. Pausing briefly to say see-ya to Ross, Sam & Lisa, the drivers then tried to persuade me to go elsewhere before organising me a seat and a six hour frozen limb journey on the coldest bus imaginable up to Bangkok. They handed out blankets for everyone when they could just as easily switched off or down the air con). I don't like aircon. My throat loathes aircon.

They said it went to the Eastern bus terminal but it terminated North Bangkok which is miles from anywhere and more so from my booked guesthouse, so this Moldovian chap and I waited for the local bus to Banglamphu. The big old heavy local bus was driven by the smallest youngest lightest Thai woman I've seen. She looked like an eight year old peering over the steering wheel and had to lean over to her left to change the gearstick, which was taller and wider than her. She drove it like she stole it - scouse heritage? - and nobody asked for any bus fare from us. Perhaps it was stolen. Anyhoooo, at almost midnight, I finally dumped my pack on the floor and my weary frame on the bed.

Not Under Seige

I've checked my pockets and I only have 55 baht left. After a quick mooch, the best on offer is a 55B Chocolate Brownie Blizzard from Dairy Queen so here I am, soothing my throat whilst simultaneously tickling my tastebuds, enlarging the love handles and finishing this chapter. There is a slight satisfaction to leave a country with no coins or notes.

I'm heading later back to Manchester via a night at Heathrow. I've decided to spend an overdue Christmas with family and friends (I think it's been 11 years since spending xmas with the family). Not sure how long I'll be there. It depends on the job situation as I reckon I need to top up my balance to get a flight onward. Who knows

End

Of the two countries I visited, I prefer Laos as it shines much brighter than Cambodia but they both have been fantastic places to visit. There's a mixture of things to see, do, taste and experience. The tragic recent past contrasts with the glorious older history. There are heaps of amazing natural sights and a few fun man-made bits inbetween to keep you amused. I'd recommend both. If you do come over to South East Asia to visit several or all of the countries I'd recommend ending your trip in Laos simply due to it being more laid back than the others. Even the mozzies are relaxed there and I hardly got bit.

I am hugely grateful to Leanne for txting and emailing invaluable advice on various sights and issues and Becky for her tips too. Thanks to Susan and Liz who sent a whole lot of United news and scores via txt which came in useful when I couldn't see the games or get to a pc and a big thumbs up to Jo in America who has sorted out a replacement pair of Bolle sunnies for me.

Lastly, to everyone I met who made a good trip a fucking belting trip, Khob jai lai lai. I hope I see you again at some point in the future at some place around our much travelled planet.

Merry Christmas and TTFN,
Love n hugs,
Suggs x x x

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Epilogue - My car is frozen!

As I never got any internet time at Bangkok to post the above:

My flight over was filmy (Ghost Town, Le Renard et L'Enfant), coughy and sleepy. I got a seat upstairs on the jumbo which was cool. Lots of room up there and hardly any engine noise. The guy in front never reclined his seat throught the flight and there were no screaming kids. If only Mr Elbow next to me didn't hog the arm rest all the time. Talking of Mr Elbow, 30 minutes into the flight I heard a failed txt message and saw he had his mobile on. I mentioned that it's supposed to be switched off and he said he saw on TV's Mythbusters that it's ok to have it on. Oh well, that's ok then, just forward a tape to FAA, Eva Air and all the other passengers and they'll change the rules for you. Nobhead! There were a couple of urgent requests during the flight for a doctor on board but as I was with the elite, I didn't see what happened. I was coughing that much I thought they could have suspected I had bird flu.

At Heathrow I immediately felt the chill. I waited and waited for my bag and after everyone had picked up theirs and a few random bags were doing the lonely carousel circuit, I asked how much longer I have to wait before getting worried (and colder). Upon checking, I was told my bag was going straight to Manchester even though I'm not till the next day. Shivering and listening to the sounds of Jona Lewie stopping the cavalry (it's certainly Christmas time), I waited for the courtesy bus to take me to the courtesy hotel and the next morning, after a full and hearty breakfast, I shivered some more to get back.

After BMI at Heathrow confirmed my bag was definitely on board the Manchester flight, the bag wasn't on board the Manchester flight.

After the baggage desk at Manchester confirmed it wasn't lost and I'd have it delivered by the evening, I never got it delivered in the evening.

I went home freezing in the clothes I had been wearing for the last 48 hours, my throat steadily getting worse in the cold (the doctor confirmed it is chest infection), and the following day, my bag and clothes arrived.

It's been many years since I last saw ice on my car.

- this blog was sponsored by Forrest Gump -

Posted by suggs69 08.12.2008 03:50 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

no no No No NO NO ummm go on then

Hey mister, you want book, postcard, pineapple, cold water, flute, bracelet for your wife, beer?

sunny
View Laos & Cambodia on suggs69's travel map.

So What?

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Seven hours later I arrived at Siem Reap. It was a beautiful and relaxing boat trip down the river, through mangroves and floating villages and over the Tonle Sap lake, all lush with vegetation and birdlife.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here and also here
--and I promise they are not all temple photos

I got picked up by Cam on his moped and was taken to King of Angkor Guesthouse, ran by a couple of guys called Mr Tom and Mr Jerry (you could never see them though as the larger grey feline was always chasing the smaller brown rodent while the latter played pranks and got out of scrapes). It was clean and ok, close to the busy bits but my room was on the 5th floor and as I was later to find, after climbing temples (and should have remembered Battambang's temple's steps), five floors is a killer. And more often than not when going out, I always forgot something I had to traipse back up for.

First up was to look for a Koh Ker trip as it far away and expensive unless there are others going too. I'd read about it and wanted to see it but wasn't sure how to get there. I spoke to an english guy called Dave who ran the Peace of Angkor Guesthouse and he said they do tours but will get back to me when the next one is.

I had a message from Dee that she was in town so I called her and we arranged to meet for a quickie (oh behave) as she was getting up at 0400 to end her visit with a sunrise over Angkor Wat. As it was Saturday, I thought I may have Sunday off and start temple hunting Monday so I could have a few drinks tonight. A couple later I went for some nosh via a recommendation at Viva as that night they do $1 tacos. Don't bother. They were limper and softer than a 90 year old's... handshake.

I had a few more drinks in the bar "Angkor What?" (clever eh?) and watched a bit of footie before checking my mail and saw that the Koh Ker trip was scheduled for Wednesday and there were others on it so the price would come down. Brilliant. But it meant no day off and the that the next three days* were now Angkor temple hopping. I thought I'd set the alarm for 0430 and check to see if the weather was good enough for a sunrise start.

*I'd been recommended to get a three day pass over a one day pass so you can take your time a they are far apart, and I also had time on my side. I concur with this tip.

So Wat?

Bleary eyed and regretting those extra drinks as the alarm shrilled, I was rather hoping it wouldn't be but the sky was crystal clear and full of stars. Cam never got back to me after I left a message about my change of plans, so I found a tuktuk driver outside called Pan Ne which proved to be a far better option. His English was extremely limited, but it's heaps better than my Cambodian: hello, please, thank you.

A lot of people speak English very well here and with the dollar being used as currency, and seeing Siem Reap full of western influence, from the bars and restaurants surrounding the central and old markets to the grand hotels reaching further out of town, Pol Pot and his cronies must be spinning in his grave.

But what Pan Ne lacks in English he makes up for in laughing and smiling which helped throughout the days ahead. The tuktuk was cheaper than a moped and the advantage of a tuktuk is that you can sit back and kick up your feet between wats. And stay dry during the odd brief shower. I'm paying more for a tuktuk as I'm on my own but at least I have autonomy and can spend any amount of time I want in the temples without wanting others to hurry up or slowing them down.

I arrived at Angkor wat in darkness and followed the crowds over the moat, through a building and out into a huge courtyard. Peter had told me to go behind a pond so you can see the reflection when it gets light so I found the pond (it wasn't difficult, most people were heading for same spot) and nestled through the people and squatted near the water's edge. A second later I heard a familiar voice and saw Dee on a bench next to me. Sweeeet! She budged up and I got a prime spot with her and Danny.

The following hour was a mass of tourists from a mass of countries taking pictures of a silhouetted Angkor Wat against various shades of morning sky. Why do people still use their flash when the temple is about 100 metres away and the sky considerably further? It wasn't a particularly exciting or colourful sunrise but it has to be done.

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--ooh, a sunrise

After this, most visitors with money got back in their tour buses and back to their hotels for breakfast, to leave us to wander round a relatively empty Angkor Wat. Although I was there a while, once I was leaving and going onto the next wat (it took a while to find Pan Ne as it was dark when I met him) I thought that I could easily complete a full temple tour in a day.

How wrong I was. I was around the Terrace of Elephants at 3 o'clock, which was only my eighth of the possible hundred or so suggested sites (or sights, both work). To be fair I had been up very early, I was taking my time and waiting for decent photos opportunites, but I could feel my energy draining rapidly and after taking over 250 photos and my camera clinging onto life, I had to go back to the hotel to recharge my batteries, both figuratively and literally.

A Brief History of Wattage?

Angkor wat and the surrounding temples were constructed over a several hundred years around the 10th century, mostly for Hinduism religious beliefs but later Buddhism. It was the capital of the Khmer empire but after this crumbled (or rather the Siamese empire grew), the capital moved down to Phnom Penh. The temples were left to the jungle and the local people and only discovered by the western world mid-19th century with the help of Henri Mouhot. Since then there has been numerous surveys and restorations by various nations. In 1992 it become a World Heritage Site.

What the?

Over the four days I so much amazing architecture, carvings and ruins all over the area. I climbed up, around, down, across, jumped and shuffled along ledges, almost like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.

I bought a book from a street vendor called Ancient Angkor and it is very well written and informative and some of the above has to be credited to it, but can anyone explain this extract? "Pass between these buildings and you enter a small but massive pavillion that precedes the first flight of steps"
Superb.

Street Vendors are everywhere (mostly kids) outside the temples asking if you want a cold drink or pineapple or mango or postcard or bracelet for your wife or girlfriend or flute or book. Although amusing at first, they soon become a pain. They speak lots of languages so it was a challenge to come with a country where I was from that stumped them. But it never shut them up. You just have to learn to say no or ignore them and don't stop walking.

The weather wasn't a compact camera's friend. It hardly rained but the light was quite flat. Of course I still took hundreds.

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How did they know about stegasaurouses?

During my travels I saw a guy washing his oxen. "Strange", I thought, I wonder if there's an oxen show in town? Even stranger, I thought it sounded like a euphemism.
washing ones oxen verb.
A popular term meaning to play with oneself.
"Sorry love, I'll be downstairs for dinner in a few minutes. Tell the other guests I won't be long. I'm just washing my oxen" (Philip before the state opening banquet)

After day three, Pan Ne dropped me off and he set off on his 30 minute drive home. After I had got up to level five (typical) I realised I'd left my bag on the tuktuk. I ran downstairs and asked them to ring him but his phone was switched off so I scaled the stairs once more and when I was going out later, there he was, waiting for me outside with my bag and asking me to check the contents. His number is 012 287129 if you want to use him.

Wat Was the Best?

My top 6 favourites were:

-Ta Phrom (they have purposely left it in the state they found it with trees strangling the walls),

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-East Mebon (because not only was it in decent nick but I was the only one there so that was where my Tomb Raider climbing came out)

-Prasat Thom (in Koh Ker region, seven tiered overgrown pyramid)

-Bayon (initially wasn't too impressed - was wat tired - but got better and better the higher and higher I got)

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-Beng Melea (like a giant's lego set. Just go and see it, climb it & snap it)

-Kbal Spean (carvings in rocks under a stream and a great way to break up temple fatigue)

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here and here
--and I promise they are not all temple photos

My Wat Itinerary

Day 1 04:30-15:00
Angkor Wat - Prasat Kravan - Sras Srang - Banteay Kdei - Ta Phrom - Ta Keo - Chau Say Thevoda - Thommanom - Leper King Terrace - Elephant Terrace - Phimeanakas
Tuktuk Cost: $12

Day 2 11:00-18:00
Kbal Spean - Banteay Srey - East mebon - Phnom Bakheng for sunset
Tuktuk Cost: $19

Day 3 05:30-09:00 & 11:30-17:30
Bakong - Preah Ko - Lolei - (back to bed) - Gave Blood - Ta Som - Neak Pean - Preah Khan - Bayon - Angkor Thom South Gate
Tuktuk Cost: $15

Day 4 07:00-18:00
Prasat Bram - Prasat Chen - Prasat Thom (Koh Ker) - Prasat Leung - Prasat Grochap - Beng Melea
Minibus Cost: $50

Wat Else is there to do in Siem Reap?

I did another sunrise start but went back to bed for a few hours before exploring further. As we were tuktuking past the children's hospital I saw a sign saying there was a severe Denge fever epidemic and they're after blood donations to help children who have gone into shock, especially those with B or AB.

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I know AB is pretty rare, as I have it, so I called Pan Ne to stop and went in and gave them a pint of my finest, although after last night I think the lucky recipient kid who gets my claret will wake up slightly tiddly. I haven't given blood for seven years due to New Zealand's stance on UK people and mad cow disease, and wondered if getting tea and biscuits was universal. This hospital, who relies on 80% public donations to fund it, gave me a can of coke, some vitamin and iron tablets for the following seven days, and a bag with a car sticker, a t-shirt and a big box of salted crackers in. Wonderful.

Tip: If you do this, do it on your day off as climbing temples minus a pint of blood in you makes you unsteady.

I had a few nights out round town, firstly with Dee & Danny, then with Lisa and Sam (tubing) who I met by chance (and it turns out our next 10 days are following a similar route so we'll be drinking together a few more times) and then with Ross and whoever else we bumped into.

Dr Beat Richner (doc doc doc doc doctor beat) heads the Kantha Bopha children's hospitals around Cambodia. He's a Swiss guy who is a source of inspiration. He was over before the Khmer Rouge took over and came back when it was safe to start these hospitals. He used to play the cello before becoming a paediatric doctor but now, after doing all his duties for Kantha Bopha, which include helping design and build the hospitals, he picks up and plays his huge fiddle in his spare time twice a week in the hospital conference room free of charge with donations expected afterwards (this is where 80% come from).

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Beatocello

Lisa, Sam and I went along but I'd read the poster wrong and it wasn't him there, it was a movie about him. It was engaging to watch though and he comes across as an amazing guy with a few idiosyncrasies and grumbles about a few organisations.

He did play on Thursday and, with Ross, we popped along to that and he is an accomplished player and I would definately recommend popping along if you're here. If you do, wear something warm as the air con is freezing. It was apt that the maternity wing took exactly nine months to build.

On the last day there, three of us popped along to a nearby posh hotel and paid $15 for the use of the swimming pool all day (whilst listening to the easy and cheesey songs such as Kylie and Jason's Especially For You), lunch, drink and one hour massage. Niiiiiiiice.

Penh Again

Now I am in Sihunoukville on the south coast where there is plenty of beach to rest and relax. I went via Phnom Penh. This time the movie on the bus was great. It seemed to be about a rural village trying to protect themselves from an army and as it was set many years ago, they were using rudimentary methods to repel them. I think it was a Chinese film, with Japanese subtitles and dubbed in Cambodian! It was so funny. I couldn't understand a word of it. Everyone was laughing though as it was done in a slapstic Home Alone fashion.

Like the 5th member of Star Trek who always beamed down and got killed, all the non-speaking roles for soldiers always had them being shot in an accidental way, such as a chicken pecking an insect on the trigger. The main army characters kept getting various body parts set on fire, slipping on bananas or peas or more usually getting their knackers cracked with planks, bulls, or posts. I can't wait for the sequel.

Talking of movies, is the answer: "Zed's dead baby, Zed's dead?"

TTFN
Suggs x

Posted by suggs69 01.12.2008 19:07 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bouncing Battambang

Thigh Burn


View Laos & Cambodia on suggs69's travel map.

A Night at the Circus

The trip up North West to Battambang was uneventful apart from the hilarious Cambodian comedy blasting out of the TV. I know it was super funny because everyone else was laughing and I couldn't hear my mp3s. And here was me being good and following the sign on the bus which said, "Keep silent on the bus".

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Battambang is a quiet town. I had a long walk along the river, popped into the tourist info office after it had shut and they who were very helpful, and then to one end of the town where I had a beer at the Balcony Bar then realised it wasn't up to much and was getting dark so mooched back past Smoking Pot restaurant where upon I bumped into Peter (from Muang Ngoi Neau) again.

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The currency here in Cambodia is Riel but everywhere so far charges in US$ which bugs me. Apart from it's too easy for people to round up to the nearest dollar (US$1 = 4000 Riel), I much prefer to learn the currency so it was refreshing to see this menu in Riel. I had a quick Khmer amok meal and then I suggested (courtesy of tourist info) we go to the circus at Phare Ponleu Selpak. It's a cultural and multi-arts centre that was set up almost 20 years ago and the circus school around 10 years ago for disadvantaged children and what a great show and what a lot of talent they have, as was also seen beforehand in the art gallery. More info at www.phareps.org

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Stepathon

The next morning after a quick baguette breakfast (WARNING: Don't sit within 2 metres of me when I have a baguette. Crumbs go everywhere when I try to divide one) I got picked up by Chomnan on his 110cc Suzuki Viva who was taking me round a few sights in return for petrol costs and a bit of practise for his English. We hammered out of Battambang on the sealed road and towards Phnom Sampeou forgetting to slow down when the sealed road become very unsealed and almost making my fly off. In fact, I very much bet I did fly off, bounce up and down a couple of times on the seat before coming to rest a few inches shorter than I started. Here's an out-of-body artistic impression:

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Many, many potholes later we came to Phnom Sampeou, a hill in the middle of a large plateau with caves in and temples on top. Unfortunately the caves were also used by the Khmer Rouge for prisons and pits to throw bodies into.

To get to the temple at the top there are a very punishing and steep and large 700+ steps. As Chomnan wasn't an official guide when we came to a fork in the ascent we invariably chose the wrong turn, only to rise 60+ steps before re-descending and going up the other prong of steps that continued up to the heavens. Feel the burn! Christ, my thighs were killing at the top (perhaps I should blaspheme to Buddha) and then we went to a cave that was down 80 steps only to find it was more of a depression in the hill and that we have to go back up. I was one sweaty unfit westerner.

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There were even stairs there just for the sake of it that went nowhere....

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Taking the piss

On the way down (phew!), he took me a different way so we could see the cave of bones and again we took the wrong turn, went down half way and came to a Buddha filled dead end and was told by the polite resident rice eating monkey that we have to go back up and take the other set of steps (arrgh!).

btb_monkey.jpg
--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Top Banana

When we finally made it to the bottom, I could have slept for days. My legs were wobbly and shaky. We refuelled ourselves with rice before opting against the 36km pothole onward trip to a reservoir further away and chose instead Wat Banan which was kind of on the way back, albeit a different route.

After a few more wrong turns on the bike, we made it to Wat Banana (as they call it),
which was on the top...
of...
a...
fucking...
hill.

With steps.

I should have seen it coming - there aren't too many hills round here - but I didn't as my eyes were firmly on the road looking for holes. Even the official name of Phnom Romsay Sok gives it away as Phnom means Hill.

btb_steps4.jpg
ooh, more steps

These were even steeper at various dizzying gradients and half way up catching my breath (it could have been a quarter way) some kids ran up and started fanning me. "Yes, they will do it for $1" said Chomnan. Tell them sod off then. One thing about Cambodia so far is that everyone, bar none, is trying to extract money out of you for one reason or another. I paid at the previous hill to the tourist police and then this hill tried to get me to pay also even though it's included in the ticket for the last Wat. You have to fork out again just to pop into caves up the same hill. When nipping into a wat to see what it's like, someone gives you jasmine or incense as a gift and then asks to pay for that "gift". Grinds my gears alright. Especially after coming from Laos. Although, to try to address the balance, the mattresses in the guesthouses here are comfortably foam than the sand/planks of wood "beds" in Laos.

btb_banana.jpgbtb_chomnan.jpg
Chomnan wasn't very good at directions but his English was sorted at the end

Anyway, I huffed and puffed to the top to be greeted by Angkor Wat-architect designed buildings in pretty good nick so I rested and took in these for a wee while before going down he steps a bit more fitter than the yanks huffing and puffing coming up. Hee hee. Finally made it to the bottom.

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--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here

Tired, Hungry, Grumpy

And then, after re-hydrating, we set off swerving and avoiding many of the craters on a seemingly endless potholed road back to Battambang. I bought a boat ticket to Siem Reap for the morning, paid Chamnon his petrol and a bit extra (and his lunch earlier - I don't mind paying for good service) and went out for some food. After trudging round on my weary legs for ages, I could not find anywhere open. I did find one bar open with a bill of fare of tasty sounding western food, but the portly Aussie owner told me with a certain delight, as he was tucking into massive pork chops, sausage, mashed potato, peas, carrots and gravy (yes I stared) that it's a new menu and they're going to start serving food tomorrow. The fat lardy bastard!
The only other people who seemed to be eating were the large group at a private street party wedding, which apparently will last three days. Good on 'em. Begrudgingly, I went to bed hungry and shut my eyes, whilst also trying to close my ears and nostrils from the music and food aromas from the wedding below. I smiled and took comfort as I remembered the world's worst rope swing I saw two children playing with earlier.

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Flatface considered this to be his least successful "tarzy"

The next morning I scattered the immediate vicinity with baguette crumbs before boarding the 07:00 five hour boat to Siem Reap.

Seven hours later I arrived in Siem Reap....

.

love n hugs
Suggs xx

Posted by suggs69 22.11.2008 07:39 Archived in Cambodia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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