A Travellerspoint blog

Stop 13 - Sihanoukville

Sihanoukville aka schnookville

storm 28 °C
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Our next stop takes us to the little beach town of Sihanoukville...or schnookville because we don't know how to pronounce it. All reports said this place was a dive. Too much rubbish and a seedy underbelly. But as we needed to get a visa for Vietnam and didn't want to stay in Phnom Penh we headed there anyway.

We stayed at Otres Beach and were pleasantly surprised! Its about a 15 - 20 minute tuk tuk drive from the actual town and was nothing like any of the reports we read. Yes, there was a small amount of rubbish but mostly in random paddocks being burnt. The beach was clean, there good food and friendly people.

If you're friends with me on Facebook you would have seen the adorable puppies that were at our accommodation. The small fluffy one did not hit the ground the whole time we were there. Lucas was smitten with her. She would wander into our room in the morning ready to play - soooo cute!!

Our stay was only for a couple of days but the one thing we did do was a boat trip in the evening. We went out snorkelling and fishing but the main attraction was the luminous plankton that comes out when the sun goes down.

The snorkelling was not that great as visibility was quite bad so to make up for that we decided to jump off the boat. This was apparently the best fun ever according to the boys and so much better than snorkelling. We didn't catch any fish which was a bit disappointing because if we did we could have taken it back to be cooked for our dinner.

After the sun went down we started seeing what looked like fluro green lights on the surface of the water. This was the plankton. It looked really beautiful. There weren't many around so we headed back into the water - under the water you could see a lot more. As you moved about in the water more plankton appeared. It was like a whole heap of fairy lights coming on around you, moving with the motion of the water. A truly incredible sight.

We also had a few good storms whilst we were there. The rain was bucketing down, lots of thunder and lightening.

Would I come back to Sihanoukville? ABSOLUTELY!! It was a great place with nothing to do but relax, eat, drink and soak up some sun for a few days.

With our Vietnamese visas in hand our next stop is Phu Quoc island.

Posted by carlagregory 22:23 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Stop 12 - Phmon Penh

overcast 28 °C
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A brief 2 day stop in Phmon Penh.

Day one we spent touring the city by foot and visited the museum and looked at the palace from the outside. This time we chose not to enter the palace....not because we were inappropriately dressed.

Day two we spent visiting the killing fields and the genocide museum. The things that took place here were absolutely atrocious and beyond comprehension. I don't have words to describe what I experienced at both places so I will make no comment. We did the audio tour at both places which I highly recommend.

I really don't have many comments about this city. There are some lovely parts and some incredibly filthy parts. It has only been 30 odd years since war has ended here so trying to rebuild after such devastation would be incredibly hard. I must admit on arriving here I could not get past the filth - it is everywhere!! I guess it was unfair of me to expect a beautiful thriving city at this point in time. I'm sure in years to come it will get to that stage; there are certainly glimpses of it now. All I can say is watch this space....

Posted by carlagregory 06:01 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Stop 11 - Siem Reap

A dodgy country town??

sunny 30 °C
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With Chiang Mai done we jumped on a bus and headed back to Bangkok to then get on another bus and cross the border to Cambodia. 20 hours of bus travel made for 4 irritable people. If you can spend the extra 300 baht for the super duper VIP bus I'd suggest that you do it. We couldn't as it didn't fit in with our connecting bus but gee you really notice the difference.

Once over the border with Cambodia we were on our way to Siem Reap; home to the famous Angkor Wat and Angkor park. Our first impressions of Siem Reap were not great. The bus stop looked like it was in the middle of some guys back paddock and there didn't appear to be anything else around the area. I thought it might have been more of a city than just a couple of buildings on a couple of dirt roads. I really didn't think we were going to survive our 5 nights there without being incredibly disappointed.

We went straight to our hotel and checked in. By this time it was about 5pm and I went straight to bed. Adam and the boys went out and ventured around a bit and discovered that there is a lot more to the city than two dirt roads.

Our first day was a day of relaxing and wandering around the city. We had amazing coffee right next door to where we were staying and they even did takeaway! This meant Adam was able to go down in the morning and get me one to have in bed before I got up for the day. He totally loves me ;)

But back to our trip...after a day of wandering streets and markets we had an early night as we were heading to Angkor Wat in the morning to watch the sunrise. This meant a 4am wake up call. I'm not a morning person so this was a struggle for me.

The sunset was beautiful and between a camera and 2 phones we took 11 photos and maybe on 2 were good.....disappointing!! But the one good thing about being there so early is you have less crowds and don't have to line up for 2 hours to see things. If you are heading there with children be aware that children under 8 are not allowed to climb the tower. James politely waited downstairs for us - he was ok with this as he didn't want to go up the stairs. Despite the lack of good sunset pics it is a beautiful place and definitely worth the visit.

Siem Reap - Angkor Wat

Siem Reap - Angkor Wat

Siem Reap - Angkor Park

Siem Reap - Angkor Park

The next stop was Banyon which James was most excited about because of all the faces carved into the rock. Again, very impressive. The boys enjoyed running around and exploring the temples. We went back for a nap during the middle of the day and then came out in the afternoon to look at a few more temples.

Siem Reap - Angkor Park

Siem Reap - Angkor Park

Another rest day followed our visit to the park. Then the day after that we went back to the temples in the morning to see a few more. I really think I am all templed out and they are all starting to look the same.

Cultural eating Cambodia also took place. On the menu was tarantula, scorpion and snake. I participated this time and found it to be quite dry and lacking in flavour. Not going to be taking off as a cuisine in our house any time soon.

Siem Reap - Cultural Eating

Siem Reap - Cultural Eating

So after my initial thoughts on Siem Reap it actually turns out to be quite a nice place. If it was on a beach it would be even better!!

Posted by carlagregory 05:56 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Stop 10 - Chiang Mai

Elephants and temples...and temples...oh and did we mention temples...

sunny 30 °C

Chiang Mai - What a gorgeous little place....however we didn't see much of it outside of the walls of the old city. Is there anything beyond the four walls?? We'll never know.

For those of you who aren't aware there is the [i]old city[i] of Chiang Mai which was built 700 years ago and is surrounded by four walls and a moat. Only parts of these walls remain today; at the four corners and the city gates. The rest of Chiang Mai has built up around the old city and I'm sure it is gorgeous but we didn't see that much of it. And there is no need to when everything you need and more is right within the four walls.

Our overnight bus from Bangkok arrived in Chiang Mai at some ungodly hour on a Sunday morning. We went to our accommodation and surprise surprise our room was not ready. We spent the next 3 hours walking around the city (with nothing open) until our room was ready ( Adam Edit: tis was my favorite time there to be perfectly honest...it was a lovely 22 degrees and for the first few hours we really did have the place to ourselves as we watched the sun rise with no real understanding of where we were.). This is a very easy city to navigate on foot. Nothing is too far away and the streets are mostly in a grid.

On our first night we went to the night market. A huge walking street market with loads of food, souvenirs, clothes and soooooo many people! If you miss the Sunday market do not fret as there seems to be markets all the time.

We spent a lot of our time walking around the city, going between the various monuments and wats. Lucas was keen to walk as it meant more time playing pokemon and hatching more eggs. We saw the 3 kings monument...it was a statue of 3 kings and not much else. I thought they would have been bigger....

Within the walls is also Wat Chedi Luang which is a ruin of a temple in the centre of the city. This wat used to house the emerald Buddha which is now housed in the Grand Palace in Bangkok which, if you're playing along at home, you'll remember we didn't see because we were dressed inappropriately. The surrounding wats housed some incredible wax effigies of the past monks. They look so real its actually creepy. James, Lucas and I also got blessed by a monk and received a string bracelet. The string bracelet comes from a larger piece of string blessed by the monks to bring good luck and protection.

We did venture outside of the city a couple of times. Once was to go to the Wat Phra That Doi Suthep This was something Adam really wanted to see. Legend says a white elephant walked up the hill and died in a particular spot which everyone took this a sign that the temple needed to be built there. According to Adam there should have been about 1200 steps to the temple....according to the info given out by the temple it should be about 360 stepts...according to our count its about 190 steps. Either way I'm totally unfit and was knackered by the time I reached the top. Once at the top you get to see a beautiful temple decorated in white and gold. Is this different from any other temple?? No, but they have a statue of a white elephant AND they had a white dog with eyebrows painted on. We couldn't get a photo of that dog but it was hilarious.

The temple only takes about 20 minutes to look around; unless you're with James and then you need to download the app to read the barcode to tell you the story of their religions history and then walk around the temple for the second time scanning the barcodes and listening to the story of the religions history. In saying that it is truly wonderful that he is wanting to learn and taking an interest in other religions and cultures. It think will make for a very rounded view on life.

After the white elephant we went to Chiang Mai zoo which was so disappointing for me. If you care about how animals are treated and how they should be kept in captivity this zoo is not for you. I felt like this zoo was stuck 30 years in the past with lots of concrete and very little enrichment for the animals. I think they are trying to make things better; they were building a new enclosure for the hippos and the gibbons had some beautiful enclosures but the rest was incredibly poor. The elephants (one adult and one baby) were attached to a chain 3 ft long so people could take photos with them. It was terribly awful in some parts. We did see giraffes and were able to feed them, we were also able to feed the hippos and they have one panda who looked quite happy gorging on bamboo. The sun bears also looked like they were having a fantastic time even though they appeared incredibly overweight (compared to the ones we saw in the sanctuary). I'm not convinced I would recommend this place to others visiting the area but you can make up your own mind.

One good thing about Chiang Mai is that we were never stuck for food choices and found some great, inexpensive places to eat. We also found some amazing coffee and vegemite!! I cannot tell you how excited I was to have some vegemite. The vitamin B was so tasty!! We also got to watch the start of the footy season in which Port won and Carlton lost. And we watched the cricket...did you see that shot by Warner?!

But I think our favourite part of Chiang Mai (well at least mine...) was the elephant retirement park. Oh my this was an amazing day. It was home to 7 elephants, 6 of which have been rescued from building sites and the like and one 7 month old who was born at the park. The oldest elephant was 35 and she looked as though she had had a hard life. We got to feed them, made some medicine for them, gave them a mud bath and then played with them in the water. They were all so beautiful and very cheeky! Such a great experience.

And that ends our time in Thailand! With visas expired we now head to Cambodia.

Posted by carlagregory 08:38 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Stop 9 - Bangkok

Seriously, where is all the food?!

sunny 30 °C
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What is the deal with Bangkok and their lack of restaurants?? I spent the majority of our time there hungry, frustrated and irritable. It is supposed to be a mecca for food however I felt as though I spent the whole time wandering looking for something to eat. It really should not have been that hard! Street vendors with fried chicken that was fried 5 hours ago is not good food! Anyway, that is my rant. If food options were readily available I would have quite enjoyed Bangkok.

When not searching for food we spent a fair bit of time walking through the city; looking at wats and shops. It is quite easy to navigate your way around and the trains and boats are fantastic at getting you between places.

We saw the palace but didn't go in....not dressed appropriately...
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We saw the museum but didn't go in....not open that day...

We saw a snake eating a gecko...that was pretty cool...
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I think I've seen enough wats and Buddha's to last me a life time. The reclining Buddha was stunning! Definitely worth seeing. James is fascinated by all the paintings in the wats and spent quite a long time checking them all out.

And that wraps up our time in Bangkok...next up Chiang Mai where we will spend our last few days in Thailand.

Posted by carlagregory 02:18 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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