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.