Thursday, December 07, 2006

You are never to old.

A few days ago I joined the crowds of backpackers in Vang Vieng to engage in the ritual of floating down the local river on an inflated tractor tube and jumping of things.
That's when I met Mike from England. Mike will celebrate his eighty first birthday this week and decided that floating down the river with a bunch of twenty somethings and one middle aged man, me, was just the thing to do.
Now the actual floating is just a minor part of the entertainment. At various parts along the river bars have been set up with attractions like diving platforms and flying foxes that allow you to show your skill in splashing into the water from great height all for the price of a bottle of beer.
Where I shy away from anything over five meters high Mike has no such qualms and even jumped of a trapeze swing that was about fifteen meters above the river.
I hope that I can do things like that by the time that I am eighty.

Sunday, November 26, 2006


It's a lovely morning out here in Vientiane and after having had some breakfast and drinking a few coffees while reading the newspaper I went for a stroll through town. I came across a fairly decent looking hair salon and decide to try my luck. Now it's not that I have suddenly overcome male pattern baldness but the hair on the back of my neck started to look unruly.
When I go to Tony the barber in Whangarei it takes him about three minutes and a number two razor to get me looking fine again, not so in Vientiane. First they washed my hair, all two strands of it, then there were hot towels, cold towels and a head massage. I've never figured out what the purpose of a cranial manipulation is I find it neither pleasant nor have I noticed ever any benefit from it. But on with the show. The cutting using a combination of three different razors and a pair of scissors takes half an hour and then I look just like coming out of Tony's shop.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The quiet country

After a week in Laos the thing that strikes me most is the relaxed way in which everything occurs. Even the busses drive slow. I have added some pictures below to show you what it is like.
A Budha statue near Champasak

Laotian and Communist flags in Savanakhet

Fishermen on the Mekong checking their catch

Slowly crumbling building in Savanakhet

Thursday, November 09, 2006


A Norry also known as a bamboo train is a form of transport that I haven't come across before. Basically it's a timber platform on top of a set of railway wheels this "cart" gets powered by a small petrol engine connected via a V-belt to one of the axles.
As long as you know what the train schedule is so you don't run into a real train you're Ok.

When you run into a Norry that comes from the opposition direction you simply stop and decides which one gets dismantled and stacked on the side of the line while the other one goes by.

As far as I am aware these contraptions only run near Battambang in Cambodia and even their days might be numbered as they are technically illegal and the government might decide to enforce the law any day soon now.


I always thought the following story was an urban myth.
While I was having dinner in one of the backpacker restaurants here a crippled man came shuffling in on his bum begging for money. Nothing unusual so far. He looked pretty down and out in torn pants and shirt and as he was quite persistent got quite a few people to part with their cash. When he had finished his round he shuffled out of the restaurant, counted his haul, picked up his flip flops from behind a rubbish can, stood up and walked away!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Siem Reap to Battambang

The boat trip from Siem Reap to Battambang is hot, long and absolutely beautiful. I found a place on the roof of the boat and was treated to an everchanging vista of river life with small villages in the middle of nowhere suddenly turning up. Kids playing in the water and even lifestock being kept miles from the shoreline. As always a picture is worth a thousand words so enjoy the essay below.


Two nights ago I have been done over by what I assume was a swarm of mozzies. I counted more then a hundred bites and as a character in one of the books I am reading says they "itch like bollocks". I am trying not to scratch them but that isn't always easy.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Cambodians seem a little confused as to what currency they wish to use. The official unit is the Riel, most prices are quoted in US Dollars and payment can be given in Thai Baht. So it's by no means unusual to receive a restaurant bill in Dollars, pay the proprietor in Riel and Baht for change.

Out and About in Angkor

As a hardened explorer I occasionally have to forego such essentials as a swimming pool with my hotel. However one can't make do without servants so for my exploration of the great cities and temples of Angkor I have obtained the services of a manservant an driver. Mr Rien as he is known drives me in a remorque-kang, a small trailer behind a motorcycle, to the various locations waits for me while I visit them and then drives me on again. And all this for the princely sum of ten dollars per day.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Too tired to write much but here are some more pictures this time from Angkor Thom and surroundings

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ankor Wat

I visited Angkor Wat today and it left me stunned. All the trouble in getting to here was definitly worth it. This is without a doubt one of the most impressive sights I have ever seen. Even more impressive then Tikal in Guatemala. See for yourself.

The classic view

From the top looking back to entrance

The outer galleries

A detail of one of the bas reliefs

A heavenly nymph (but you could see that without me telling you)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Poipet to Siem Reap

The road from the Thai / Cambodian border at Poipet to the city of Siem Reap is unpaved and in an abysmal state of affairs. As every local will tell you this is because the airlines flying to Siem Reap have been paying off the government to ensure no work is done on the road.

A few of us getting onboard

Three O'clock in the afternoon myself and twenty two others crammed ourselfs on and in a Nissan Ute and started the journey. With so many people overloading a vehicle the best strategy is to find the least uncomfortable spot and hang on for dear life. I decided that for me that was sitting on top of my pack with my legs dangling over the side.
When we were two hours into the trip the heavens opened up and a deluge of biblical proportions came down soaking everyone and their luggage. As an added extra the wheels of the ute would trow up plenty of mud to add to the festivities. Then the road really deteriorated with water running across it and bridges missing in various places. Inevitably this resulted in us getting stuck several times in the middle of mud bogs or rivers and having to jump of the ute and help push it out again. The most surreal moment came when we were in the middle of a flood plain the ute being towed by a tractor with us walking behind and up to our middle in the water when a boat carrying some fishermen came sailing by.

And I do this for fun?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Bangkok and beyond.

The last few days have been spend doing bugger all in Bangkok. For some reason the heat and humidity always seems to sap my energy and I end up doing not much more then watching the passing parade in Koh San road.
Never mind change is in the air. I should have my visa for Laos by the end of the day and I am considering altering my travel plans to be able to spent more time there and in Cambodia. So my current plan is to make my way tomorrow towards Cambodia, see the wonders of that country, and then take the back door via the Mekong river to Laos eventually ending backup in Thailand sometime in December and then making my way back to Singapore in order to be home before Christmas.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Off to Bangkok

I have been on the move for the last two days now. First from Taman Negara to Kota Bharu on the border between Malaysia and Thailand then yesterday from there to Hat Yai in Thailand and this afternoon I will hopefully get on the overnight bus to Bangkok a fourteen hour ride! So all being well I should be in Bangkok tomorrow morning around seven o'clock.
Not looking forward to the night ride but it's the best way of getting there.


I have had a full day of Jungle walking and it shows. I must have added another hundred mosquito bites to my collection, removed a leech and in general I feel knackered.
The day began with a trip across the river to the park proper and then a gentle walk to the tree top canopy walk. This is basically a set of suspension bridges strung high in the tree tops so you can watch the forest from above. It's an interesting concept and just about anyone that visits the park also does the canopy walk.
After the I had clambered down from the canopy again I got talking to Chris from Manchester, about my age and level of fitness who was also sweating like a pig. We exchanged the usual travelers greetings, "How are you?, Where do you come from?" and then decided to set of together to climb Bukit Terek a hill nearby that has a lookout over the jungle. The trip was a killer unrelenting in it's steepnes. We stumbled upwards and onwards stopping every few minutes for a a rest and to drink some more water. When we finally made it to the top the South East Asian haze prevented any real views but it felt like an achievement to have just done it.
To top it all off we then decided to walk on to Lubok Simpon a waterhole at one of the parks rivers. This proved to be a lot easier going but aslo a lot longer then we anticipated so when we finally got there we took shoes and shirts off and just dived in the river. Lovely!
The walk back followed the river and was relatively flat. A good thing to boy was I glad to get back to my hotel.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Kuala Tembling to Kuala Tahan

It's definitly the off season. I am not just the only person on the bus to the jetty I'm the only person on the boat as well.
The river is wide but moves fast. My boatman steers carefully past some fishermen trowing their nets, while a solitairy bird of prey watches us from above. On one of the riverbanks a man is working in his fields. Swifts dart to and from and a nearby tree plays host to a troop of monkeys. we negotiate some rapids as hills start to become visible in the distance, part of them still shtouded in the clouds rising up from the cool water. Sand banks are frequent on this section of the river with some of them turning into small islands with grassws and scrubs on them. Just now a Kingfisher shoots by it's colored feathers radiant in the sunshine and then we round the next bend and suddenly there are boats and people everywhere.
I have arrived in Kuala Tahan.


I was just finishing my early morning shower when I felt something scurrying up my leg. In an instant I saw a spider the size of a mouse coming up and gave it an almighty swipe with my hand. It didn't bite me and I didn't sceam to loudly.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The soldier and the Imam

While wandering across the Ramadan market last night I got spoken to by a Malay gentleman who proudly proclaimed that he had served in the British army before independence. He was now seventy one and still looked the part. Ramrod straight and with the manners and bearing you would expect from Her Majesty's officers.
He was at the market like everyone else to buy food o break the days fasting and occasionally while we spoke he greeted friends and acquaintances that came by. One of them he introduced to me as an Imam and their religious leader. I would have liked to sit down and have a good discussion with him but unfortunately my Bahasa and his English weren't up to it and my new found army friend had to leave to visit one of his relatives. Such is life.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Boat, Bus and Ramadan

I am on the move again. Yesterday I took a fast ferry from Tioman Island to Mersing before taking a bus to Kuantan. Today I moved from Kuantan to Jerantut and tomorrow I hope to take a river trip by motorised canoe to Taman Negara National Park.

At the moment it is Ramadan, the month of fasting, for Muslims and as Malaysia is an Islamitic country this is widely observed here. For me this means that it's not always easy to find a place that's open for breakfast or lunch although there are always some. The payoff is in the evening when after the sun has set the Ramadan food markets open up and everybody sits around making up for the days fasting. They are friendly affairs and the food is normally excellent.

Read the label.

I was wondering why adding a little bit of salt to my meals would enhance the flavours so well. Reading the label on the salt dispenser showed it was a no brainer. In bold letters it proclaimed "Contains MSG for added flavour" Must be why they banned it in New Zealand.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


For my money Air Batang Campung on Tioman island is still one of the most pleasant beach holiday destinations in Malaysia. The Air is balmy, the water clear and the pace relaxed.
This morning during breakfast I watched a young boy riding his tricycle around the restaurant avoiding patrons as best as he could while his sister carried a kitten around in a way only small children can without being mauled. An old women sitting in the doorway kept an eye on them while chatting with the waiter.
I feel my blood pressure dropping already.


This is the burn-off season in Borneo and Sumatra. Slash and burn farmers as well as companies establishing new plantations are burning off large tracks of jungle to clear it for future planting. One of the results of this in the short term is appalling air pollution over most of South East Asia. In Sarawak it's so bad that they can't fly planes in or out and even in Singapore and Malaysia visibility is down to about three kilometers. Just imagine how much forest you have to burn to create a smoke cloud that covers a country hundreds of kilometers away!

Friday, October 06, 2006


I have spend the last two days walking my way through Singapore and boy am I feeling it. The decision to walk rather then take the MRT or a taxi to most places is realy a very weak attempt on my part to regain some fitness and loose some weight. hopefully it'll have some effect.
As I am a frequent visitor to these parts there isn't much that I haven't seen yet in town but it is always nice to wonder through "Little India" and along Singapore river. The highlight of the last two days was probably my visit to the Museum of Asian Civilisations. A terrific collection and all very well laid out and described.
Tomorrow morning I will be catching a bus to Mersing and if connections and tides work out a boat to Tioman Island where I plan to engage in all these things that hardened explorers usually do like swimming, snorkeling and propping up the bar. I'll doubt they have an internet connection there so next message in a week or so.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Frequent Flyer

The good thing about airpoints is that you fly for free. The bad thing is you have virtually no say as to how you get there. My Auckland to Singapore trip, normal travel time eleven hours, took twenty hours instead and I got to tiki tour via Sydney and Adelaide on the way. Needless to say I was knackered by the time I got to my hotel. Still it was for free.

Monday, September 25, 2006

One week to go.

I'll be off in a week's time and still changing my itinerary on a daily basis. To fit everything I want to see and do in the time I have available it looks more and more like I'll have to move pretty quickly through Malaysia and Southern Thailand and at the end of my trip fly back from Phnom Phen.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


On the third of October I will fly to Singapore, stay there for a few days and then go to Malaysia. After relaxing on the beach on Tioman for a week or so and some walking in either Taman Negara National Park or the Cameron Highlands I hope to travel quite rapidly to Northern Thailand, where I have never been before, and then on to Laos, to see the Plain of Jars and Vientiane and Cambodia for Angkor Wat. Eventually I expect in half December to fly back from Phnom Phen to Singapore and home.

Take down!

I was asked to remove some work related posts earlier today and have agreed to do so. So from now on I'll stick to travel related stuff.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

On the road again!

After a telephone call to my company in Brisbane it became clear that the project which I am supposed to lead is unlikely to get started this year. So I have taken the bull by the horns and organized flights to Singapore for the first week of October. I will post an itinerary once I have figured out exactly what I am going to do but I do know that my first stop after Singapore will be Tioman island for some lazing around.
As always I am not sure how long I will exactly go for but I have promised my family to be back before Christmas.

Monday, September 04, 2006


In December 2005 I took two weeks off to visit my parents who were working in India at the time.

Kedgoan 11/12/05
The transformation was abrupt but smooth. One moment I was in hot and muggy Singapore the next in hot and muggy Mumbai.After that it was just a series of taxi rides and then I strolled through the gates of Mukti mission.Mum and Dad are looking good, healthier then I have seen them in a while and it's good to catch up on what has happened over the last few months.

Kedgoan 12/12/05
Let me try to describe the Mukti mission and its surroundings.The mission was started by Pandita Ramabai in the late Nineteenth century and after some years established itself on land near the village of Ked, Kedgoan simply means Ked village. It now comprises a number of schools, churches and a hospital and is home to more then a thousand women from eight months to eighty years. The building Mum and Dad are staying in is apparently one of the oldest structures but it looks pretty nice and they are happy with it. The drawback is that it's next to the street and like everywhere else in India that means there is enough noise to wake the dead. Still you get used to it and there is always something to see.

Kedgoan 13/12/05
We walked out across the railway tracks and into the fields. It immediately is a different scene. It is quiet the noise of the village is far behind us, a man is irrigating his fields by slowly filling the rows he has hoed with water from a nearby well. A heron and a drongo fight over some of the insects his work throws up. There is no one else around. In a combination of Maharati, Hindi and English he tells us about his work. It looks like hard labour but he seems content.We walk a little farther and have a look at one of the wells the mission has put in. It's close to ten meters in diameter and looks very deep indeed. The water is clear and sparkling, I wonder if you can drink it but don't try. Dad decides he has walked far enough and sits down on a small wall in the shade of a Tamarind tree. Mum and I walk a bit further out in the fields. I could spend all day here.

Kedgoan 17/12/05
Here is a description of a typical day for me at Mukti mission.7.30 Get up have a breakfast of four small slices of toast with a fried egg or jam and sometimes a bowl of rice with chilies and spices. One cup of coffee.8.00 Make a bucket of hot water to wash and shave. Throw yesterdays clothing in another bucket to do my washing.8.30 Attend morning devotion. Normally a few songs, a bible reading and prayers.9.30 Have another coffee after church.10.00 Walk to Kedgoan village, take some photos, buy some fruit or sweets.13.00 Lunch with the mission staff. Two chapattis, a vegetable curry, rice and dhal. This never seems to vary.13.30 Afternoon nap.15.00 Visit a village with the mission team or one of the family houses with my parents.19.00 Dinner the same as lunch but occasionally a chicken or fish curry.19.30 Retire to my room, read a book.21.30 Go to sleep, strangely enough I am normally tired around that time.

Kedgoan 21/12/05
Christmas programme at Manorama Memorial English medium school.We started only twenty minutes late. That's pretty punctual out here.After prayers first up are the standard one girls. It's cute and hard to describe not at all what you would expect, more like fifties jiving by five years old to Indian music of course.There are lots of plays songs and dances but my interest is as always with the crowd.

Mumbai 23/12/08
Unfortunately if I am to catch my flight back to Singapore I will have to make it to Mumbai today.So at 9.30 I said my goodbyes and headed for the railway station. The train to Pune was on time but absolutely chockfull of people and I made the hour-long trip in the luggage rack. Then a change of transport and a long distance taxi to Mumbai where I am currently stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to Colaba to find a hotel.Arrived in Colaba at 16,00 hours and am currently trying to get a room in the Taj but you guessed it their computer system is down and they can't tell me if they have any vacancies or not so I have decided on a coffee in their coffee shop while I wait for the system to come back up.after a coffee and some more waiting I end up with a suite in the historical part of the building, shades of the raj, with butlers in uniform and more staff then patrons. A pleasant way to end a pleasant journey.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Catching up!

Time for a catch up and an explanation. As anyone has noticed for the last two years or so my blog entries have been slim to non existent. This is partly because I've been slack about it and partially due to external factors, that is working in Papua New Guinea with the companies firewall preventing me from accessing blogspot and updating my blog. Any way circumstances have changed. Last week I officially finished work for KBR, who earlier this year after a management buy out renamed themselves PSN. So I am free man again able to blog as I want.
In the next few entries I will try to give a quick overview what I have been up to over that period and hopefully pick up from there.