Stop the Cavalry
29.11.2008 - 07.12.2008
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).
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!
--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here
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.
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).
--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here
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?
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.
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).
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.
--see bigger, better, brighter photos: here
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
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
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 -