Tuk Tuk - Maybe later?
08/05/2012 12 °C
(Chef A was Ramsey and chef B was Elaine)
The boarder crossing was smooth and we arrived in Phenom Phenh at about 14:00. Upon arrival we met our first Cambodian NBM, he gave us a ride in his tuk tuk (a tiny motor bike with a trailer - surprisingly comfortable though) and waved the fare until 09:00 the following morning as he said he would meet us at the hotel to take us on a tour of the killing fields and genocide museum - "don't worry about the price as I will undercut everyone that you get a quote from today". After relaxing in our brand new hotel room overlooking the palace and national museum we had some beer and food at the hotel. Out of time to visit the palace we recruited a new NBM and got him to take us to Wat Phnom (a chilled place with well kept grounds) and onto the central market.
We spent the rest of the late afternoon strolling by the riverside checking the place out then we took a tuk tuk over to the independence monument so we could see it lit up at night. The evening was capped off with some Angkor beer and a take out pizza (with no cheese!) shared by the banks of the Tonle Sap river.
At 09:00 the next day (day 69 of the tour!) our NBM was sat outside the hotel with a big smile. After looking round the different tour operators we thought his $15 fee was fair so thought we would go along. The first stop was the shooting range. The prices were double those in Vietnam and without a Colt Magnum on offer I was not interested. We then went onto the killing fields. Neither of us knew too much about the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian genocide before we came here, we had been told about the place by friends but did not know the full background. Listening to the audio tour we heard details of the shocking atrocities committed and at the time felt quite emotional, we developed a new found respect for the strength and resilience of the Cambodian people. We then moved onto the genocide museum in central Phnom Penh, this was where the Khmer Rouge detained and tortured people. It was just as shocking as the killing fields but this time with images of the brutality and walls showing pictures of the faces of the countless number of people condemned.
In the afternoon to lite the mood we went out for some Pho Bo and Cambodian curry then on for a stroll around the palace and its grounds. It is a large complex with some very ornate buildings. It reminded me a little of Wat Po in Bangkok but a little bit more well kept and more spacious - quality over quantity.
That evening we enjoyed beers in the hotel and down by the river. We had come mediocre food but the beer kept us smiling.
At 08:45 the next day we were on the bus to Siem Reap. An uneventful six hour journey and we arrived. We were dropped off on the edge of town and met our third Cambodian NBM. He took us in his tuk tuk to our hotel and did his best all the way to pitch us his Ankor Tour - when we arrived and told him that we had already sorted a guide his face dropped and I felt like I had just kicked him in the balls - anyway, chin up mate there will be another bus of tourists arriving soon! After chilling in the hotel we went out for a stroll around the old town and had a couple of beers on pub street followed by some food down at some of the street vendors (more like restaurants on the pavement) off to the side of pub street - the food was tasty and reasonably priced. Pub street felt a little bit like Magaluf after some of the places we have travelled.
The next day we got up fairly early and took a stroll out to one of the temples on the other side of the river, it was nice and peaceful early in the morning. After some breakfast at a vegetarian cafe we spent the rest of the morning wandering round the different markets and the small back streets in the old town area.
After lunch at a boulangerie we did a bit more shopping then wandered back towards the hotel and on the way I had my second hair cut of the trip (of the 15 minutes it took the guy to cut my hair 12 of them were spent trimming the very edges! - he even gave me a shoulder massage when he was done, not bad for one pound sixty). At 16:00 our guide came pick us up so we could go and watch the sunset at Angkor Wat. After checking out some stupas in the town we bought our fancy photocard passes and headed to Angkor Wat. Sadly the sunset did not amount to much but we got our first look at the beast of a temple. That evening we went to a restaurant that our guide recommended and had some excellent food. Feeling suitably stuffed (as I ate half of Elaine's as well as mine) we retired for an EN as we were due to be up at 04:30 the next day to catch sunrise over Angkor Wat.
Setting off at 05:10 we arrived with the masses at Angkor. The sunrise was ok and we managed to get some resonable shots. We spent a couple of hours at Angkor Wat then moved on to some of the other temples.
Ta Promh was impressive with all of the trees growing around the ruins (stacked with tourists getting photos at the toumb raider spots though).
Our favourite temple was Bayon, it has several towers and sculptured heads and is still in quite good condition - we found it more impressive than Angkor wat.
After lunch we visited the palace and some other temples near by. We finished the day with a trip up to Preah Khan to watch the sunset. The sunset started well with some clouds giving off a rainbow of colours then the big boy clouds moved in and shut down the show.
Overall we really enjoyed the day and felt we could have given another day to the temples. Angkor Wat was not quite as impressive as we expected but the other temples lived up to their billing. The thing that made the day so good was our guide Saron. He was a really friendly chap and full of energy, he has a very indepth knowledge of the temples and the surrounding area and I would strongly recommend anyone going to the temples to give him a call (www.sarontours.com).
Arriving back at our hotel at about 18:30 we were worn out after a busy day. After relaxing a bit we skipped dinner and went straight in for giant ice creams at one of the fancy cafes - just what the doctor ordered. We then had a good few beers down on pub street and took the first tuk tuk that approached us back to our hotel (a 10 minute walk but we thought we would make the most of what may be our last opourtunity to get a tuk tuk).
At 06:30 the following morning Saron came to collect us from our hotel and took us to the airport. A long travelling day was to follow. We first flew to Kualar Lumpar and had a couple of hours to kill before our next flight. We got some cash and at Elaine's request had some dirty McDonnalds for lunch (they Spicy McChicken Deluxe was too spicy for Elaine!). The next flight took us onto Medan in Sumatra for about 14:00. We were greeted at the airport by our driver (I enjoyed having my name written on a board) and we set off on a 3.5 hour journey to Biwkit Lawang on the fringe of the Gunung Leuser national park. We arrived at about 18:00 and felt the need for a beer after 12 hours of traveling. We spent the evening relaxing at our lodge and enjoying some great local food. It was a nice change to be surrounded by rainforest next to a river - very peaceful. Our room that evening backed onto a waterfall and the soothing sound induced a wonderful nights sleep.
Up at 07:00 the next day we prepared our day packs for our two day trek, and had some breakfast. At 09:00 we set off on our trek. Biwkit Lawang translates to mean gateway to the hills. After crossing the river on a very wabbly little boat we made our way up a very steep hill to the Orangutang re-introduction centre. We saw a huge alpha male and a mother with child, very impressive.
After watching them for half an hour or so we set off to tackle some more hills. We spent the morning going up and down, seeing various different insects (some massive ants as big as my thumb), birds and some gibbons. We had a lunch of spicy rice down by a small stream in the middle of the jungle and then continued up hill to the highest point on our trek - on the way up we spotted a funny looking bug that our guide could not identify, a bit like a squashed beetle/crab with boxing gloves for front legs.
We took a very steep decent down to the river and made the crossing to our campsite with Elaine on a big tube and the guide and I steering it accross. The guide advised me to get in the tube but I wanted to have a go at walking accross - half way accross I knew why he wanted me in the tube, the river was very strong and you had to go with the flow to get across and not get swept away. I had a couple of hairy moments but made it across in one piece and had good fun doing it.
The camp was basic but comfortable and we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing by the river and having the odd swim.
By late afternoon it started to rain, this drew out a giant monitor lizzard (nearly 2m long) that we saw down by the river. It also roused the leaches and the other people in our camp were being eaten while Elaine and I were left alone by the blood suckers to play our game of cards. After dinner and several cups of ginger tea everyone went to bed and I took this as my que to go off on a mini night trek looking for bugs in the forest by myself. I only went about 40m from the camp but managed to come across some cool frogs, moths, beetles, spiders, bats, leaches and even a jumgle cockroach - nice. I managed to get some shots but without Elaines skills to help me out I struggled a bit!
The following day were were both up early feeling a little stiff thanks to the very hard floor. After a wash in the river and some breakfast our guide stumbled across a big millipede by the edge of the camp which I had great fun holding and having a close look at.
After a bit more chill time we set off on a short trek to a nearby waterfall - I say short but we spent the first hour walking/scaling up a very steep and densely covered hill, the next half hour traversing accross the hill side through thick vegetation and over ravines and then the following 45 minutes walking/climbing down an even steaper hill than we climbed up in the first place - great fun! Once at the waterfall we took some time to paddle and swim and saw a very well camoflaged frog as big as my fist. We then took a tube down the river back to our campsite for some lunch (5 minutes down the river!). After lunch the guide tied togeter three tubes and strapped our gear on board. With our guide on the back, his mate in the front and Elaine and I in the middle we se off down the rapids back to Biwkit Lawang. We were instantly soaked as a huge wave of white water slapped us in the face and brought about huge smiles. The next half hour rafting down the river was great fun with the guide and his mate directing us into the the toughest rapids and making sure we got throughly soaked and thrown about - a great way to end our treking/camping trip.
Back at our guesthouse we spent the afternoon relaxing after a busy day and a half - I made the most of the hammock on our balcony over looking the river while Elaine sat in the cafe drinking lemon tea. After a snooze we had a tasty evening meal and went back to the room early to relax some more among the sounds of the jungle and the river.
After a lay in the next day we had some breakfast and went out for a stroll around the village. It is a very small and picturesque place along the banks of Bohorok river.
While walking into town we got confronted by a troop of monkeys and when I stood my ground and stuck out my chest all of the big males came wandering over and we had a bit of a stare down. With my adrenaline pumping we slowly walked away and luckily did not get jumped on. After checking out the village we strolled back past our accomodation towards the jungle to check out a big waterfall, we never actually made it there though as we got distracted along the way by the countless number of butterflies including one that had each wing as big as my hand - no photo of this one though as it never landed. After some lunch we set off back to Medan. An uneventful journey saw us arrive at our hotel in the city at 18:30. We spent the evening relaxing in our room, had some dinner at the hotel and took a short stroll around near our hotel - Medan did not feel like a very safe place to wander round at night as there were lots of groups of blokes staring very intently as we strolled around. Time for an EN!
The next day we got up late again and spent the morning relaxing around the hotel (well needed after making the most of the buffet breakfast) and using the internet to research the next stage of our trip. After our 12:00 checkout we went for a stroll around the city to take in some of the sights; as recommended in our tourist brochure we went to see a water tower (wow), a mosque and a palace (with a corrigated iron roof - painted gold I'll have you know!).
As it was really hot in the city and we only had a few hours to kill we made our way to a nice big shopping mall to relax in the A/C. We both picked up some Jeans in preparation for NZ and enjoyed a spicy lunch followed by some ice cream. We took a side car tuk tuk back to the hotel (I think it may be actually our final tuk tuk of the trip - not too sure about South America though) and made our way to the airport. After working our way though the most primitive airport we have visited so far we were on our way to Singapore. Arriving late we took the MRT to the city centre and found our hostel with ease. That evening, feeling a little tired we went out for a stroll for a couple of hours and enjoyed some street food.
The following day I was up early and Elaine enjoyed a little lie in. To make the most out of our short time in the city we bought tickets for one of the city tour buses. First stop the marina where we watched some dragon boat racing, we then took a stroll round China Town and went onto Little India for our final lunch of the Asia leg of our tour - it felt appropriate for it to be Indian - the food was the best we have had in a long time. We then tried to get our money's worth with the tickets and took on a full lap of the bus tour, with a brief stop off at the Singapore Flyer to enjoy some gelatto (I forgot to vass up before paying for that one - owch!) and a look at the F1 pits and part of the track. Back at our hostel we finished this blog update and then made our way to the airport for our flight to Christchurch New Zealand.
(we had some issues uploading pics - so sorry no pics for Singapore)
We have had a great time travelling through Cambodia and Sumatra - we would really like to go back to Indonesia to see more of it as we were only there for a few days - the food was good and the people were almost as friendly as the Indians! Cambodia was worthy of more time and the people there were the most welcoming in all of mainland South East Asia.
Goodbye Asia, hello Australasia!!!.......