Category Archives: Cambodia

Grand Queen Hotel. Phnom Penh. 18th October. 2016

We’ve just checked out and paid our bill.

It seems the free bottles of water that we have been using to clean our teeth as well as drink was not free at all.

The two bottles of luke warm undrinkable water sat on the desk for the last three day’s was apparently free but the cold water in the fridge was not and at $5 for a small bottle of water, that has cost us over $20.

I could have had a clean and de scale for that.

WE even picked up two bottles this morning to take with us and that cost an extra $10. I tried to give them back but they said we had been charged for them now.

So, do not use the bottled water in the fridge, walk across the road to the shop opposite (3 metres away) and buy a gallon for $2.

So what of the Hotel.

Its been absolutely fine really, most of the problems have been simple things that could have gone wrong in any country.

Its clean, comfortable, everything works, though its not always as advertised.

There is no Spa for example and the swimming pool is at best a dipping pool but it is refreshing and the views from the roof are pleasant especially at night.

Phnom Penh has been a great experience.

When we arrived off the bus we took a Tuk-Tuk to the Hotel and got stuck in the traffic I did wonder if this would be a bit of a challenge especially as Georgia disliked it so much when she was here earlier in the year.

In reality it has been fine, getting around hasn’t been a problem, the traffic has some pinch points , best avoided but the other roads are reasonably clear and relaxed with wide free flowing roads. There are well laid out parks and the area along the river is pretty but at night it is busy with stalls and produce of all descriptions for sale, and it is a popular place for locals to stroll.

We were warned about the Tuk-Tuk drivers before we came but they have been great, well except one who called himself John Wayne this morning. He tried to get us to take a ride to the Russian Market to buy souvenirs and when we said no he started saying his family would starve if he didn’t get work. This might be true but laying a guilt trip on us is hardly likely to make me change my mind.

The Drivers who regularly ply their trade outside the Hotel were friendly, helpful and good fun.

We were also told horror stories about bag snatch and phone robberies but weve seen none of that.

There are a range of bars, shops and restaurants in the local area and we walked to them most nights without any concerns.

Last night we went to a Local restaurant that sold traditional food the Mer Khmer had live music and was full of locals. We had the best meal Ive had to date.

Fried Beef in Ginger, fried Morning Glory (fast becoming my favourite veg, though you cant grow it at home as its invasive and will choke any lake or river it settles in) with garlic and fragrant rice. It was amazing and very good for us, low in fat, high in fibre.

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Fried morning glory

We also used the Indian restaurant just across the road.

Sher-E-Punjab served Indian Nepalese food and it was very good though you just cant explain that we want our food spicy. They think because were European they have to remove every bit of heat and this does tend to spoil it a bit. Though we have found even in India the food isnt particularly hot. Spicy maybe, but not hot.

At the end of the street there is a bar run by an American called the Lazy Gecko which offered a selection of Cocktails, beer and wine (though sadly they kept the white wine on the shelf not in the fridge), had a happy hour deal on beers. Did good food and had a Basket Ball hoop on the wall so you could ‘Shoot some Hoops’.

We took a ride to a Huge shopping Mall yesterday but it was just like any shopping Mall anywhere in the world and it didn’t hold our attention for long.

WE did a few trips from here. The Kings palace was at best Underwhelming. Pretty gardens, some rather attractive architecture but there was nothing there. It had no soul. It was empty, sterile and unless you’r really into Kings and palaces, a bit dull.

You couldn’t say that about the Killing Fields.

This was a must do on my bucket list and although it isn’t very dramatic when you get there, its all the more poignant for that.

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The actual Killing Field

The story of the rise and fall of the Khmer Rouge (Red Khmer) is amazingly simple.

Pol Pot was a teacher and one day decided he was going to set up a communist party and take over the country ( I para-Phrase). Which he did.

He then set about destroying (Smashing was the phrase used) anyone who he perceived to be an enemy of the revolution. People who wore glasses, who had soft hands or an education were targeted and killed. Anyone who lived in a town, killed. Spoke out, Killed.

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However, the reign of the Khmer Rouge was short (thankfully) but in that time they killed 1/4 of the population.

The Killing Fields is one of the places people were taken for execution after they had confessed their crimes under torture at S 21 and they were then buried in mass graves where they fell. The place looks too pretty today to be the site of this horror but the Killing Tree on which soldier beat the heads of children is still there as are the bones and skulls of some of the victims who have been dug up, documented and preserved.

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The Killing Tree

When you pay your entrance fee you are given a head set and a tape machine which tells the full story. You walk to point one, press button one and the story starts. Evidence from Guards, soldiers and victim’s is there for all to hear.

S 21 was worse.

We paid to go in and got the head set. We were taken to the first building (Building A) and encouraged to go inside where there was a metal bed, leg Irons and on the wall a photograph of a victim.

The stain’s on the tiled floor, blood and shit, are all that remain of the prisoners who were tortured there. When the guards fled, bodies were left in situ but their throats were cut so they couldn’t give evidence..

After the second room I was overcome by a feeling of Nausea, the smell, the dim light, the reality of the metal bed’s was too much and I had to go outside. I really didn’t like it.

Jaki is made of sterner stuff and continued to do the full tour whilst I sat in the pretty little garden and listened to the full story on my head phones.

When we reached the end we came across a small stall and some advertising. It was a stall selling the book written by one of only three survivors. Chum Mey was an Engineer and he knew how to mend type writers so they kept him alive. The man himself was there and I asked if I could shake his hand. He is now 85 years old. His eyes sparkled and he signed his book for me.

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To get the full story you only need do a minimum of research on the internet.

What is so shocking is how relevant the story is today.

Whole sections of Khmer history could be cut and pasted into todays world. The abuse of small countries by big countries, the ignoring of events because its’ expedient to do so.  The brain washing of young, often vulnerable people who are poorly educated and need to believe that some one is to blame for their plight is  a familiar tale.And perhaps the most shocking of all is the knowledge that Pol Pot lived to a ripe old age, saw his grand children grow up and was never held accountable for his actions. He was even given a seat at the Un and the Khmer Rouge were given funding by the USA whilst committing these atrocities.

Its a crazy old world.

 

More pictures to follow.

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Angkor Wat. 16 Oct 2016

My Indiana Jones Period.

No one can come here and not visit the famous Temples of Angkor Wat so despite my lack of enthusiasm for old buildings, ancient history, monuments, castles. tomb’s of all shapes and sizes, I agreed to take the tour.

There are a whole load of temples and the Angkor Wat Temple is perhaps the most famous and best preserved, but it is not the only one.
I won’t bore you with the details, you can look up as much information as you wish on Google or Wikipedia. Rather, Ill try and provide some practical advice should you choose to go in the future. A good reference site is The Angkor Temple Guide.

We took a Tuk-Tuk from outside the Hotel and booked the driver for a whole day. Cost including all the bottled water we could drink was $15. If you book through reception at the Hotel, they take a commission so driver gets slightly less.

our-tuk-tuk

He drove us out to the ticket centre where we were photographed and paid our $20 each and then we set off on an unexpectedly long journey to the first Temple, the actual Angkor Wat Temple.

He dropped us under some trees and pointed out the direction we should walk and it became immediately obvious that this would be a very hot and sticky day.

jaki-on-the-bridge

Before we reached the ticket check booth we were approached by an official guide who offered to show us around and tell us all about the Temple, for a fee. We declined but, if there were a group of you and you really wanted to know in detail, about the place, this might be an investment.

Once the ticket had been checked we walked over a wooden bridge and were approached by children trying to sell Angkor Wat books at a $1 and postcards, 10 for $1.

All the ‘Official’ guidance says don’t buy from these kids as it encourages them to skip school. However, our Tuk-Tuk driver said no.They only attend half a day, the other half they work at the Temple trying to get enough money to afford to stay at school.

So, you believe what you want.

statue

We walked around and looked at the building with as much reverence and awe as we could muster but sadly after an hour or so we were both ready to leave.

We retraced our steps past the book sellers back to the Tuk Tuk.

We were then whisked off to another Temple, this time Bayon the Temple of the faces and it sure was a Temple and it did have some faces, but it was very similar to the first one.

bayon

We asked the driver to take us to a street restaurant but in his wisdom he took us to a tourist place where a lady was waiting to meet us and show us to her restaurant (at least the collection of tables that are allocated to her under a long tent type structure). The prices here were much higher than in Siem Reap as they have a captive audience of tourists.

We raised this with the restaurant lady and she agreed to give us discount which came to $3.

Suitably fed we were back on the Tuk-Tuk and on our way to our final Temple, Beng Melea probably the best and most interesting (in my opinion) of the three. This is real Indiana Jones, real Jungle book stuff. The trees have grown in on and through the temple causing a lot of the damage.

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I did ask Jaki why I needed to see this when Ive seen the real thing In Disney World but she wouldn’t answer me.

By the time we had walked around this last one I was ‘Cultured right out’ and didn’t want to see another pile of stones for as long as I lived.

Others might find it far more stimulating and I suspect it is me who is out of sync, but Its just not my thing.

I was obviously bored, I got Sooty out and started taking his picture.

sooty-at-angkor-wat

Im more a people watching person which is why I found the Japanese tourist so interesting.

They do Pictures in a big way.

Not satisfied with one camera they often have two or even three.

It is apparently compulsory to carry a selfie stick and they take posing very seriously indeed. We watched a lady get herself ready for hubby to take her picture and it was like a full Vogue shoot. She even had a change of costume.

posing-lady

They also pose in very strange ways striking poses which I assume makes them appear glamorous or attractive?

Attractive enough to get married though?

wedding-gown

 

Breakfast at the Queen Grand Boutique Hotel. Phnom Penh. 16th October 2016

Who’d have thought you could have so much fun at breakfast time?

The day started a bit badly. The alarm went off at 0830 but I really didn’t want to get up as its the best nights sleep Ive had in 3 days (sorry OKAY 1 but your bed was crap). When I did get up I had a whole load of things I needed to do but they weren’t the same things as Jaki and she started Nibbling away at me.

I never understand why ‘someone’ asks my opinion, then when they get it and it’s not what they wanted, they ask the same question again but in a different way. If you ask the same question ten times aren’t you likely to get the same answer each time?

Apparently not!

In the end I suggested she go on down to breakfast ahead of me and I would come down when I was ready.

My priority was to sit on the loo without being pressured to hurry up, one of the luxuries of being on holiday I find.Once I’d done that I sorted out my other chores and then made my way down to find Jaki sat at the table without a morsel of food present.

I joined her and we sat there for some considerable time watching the waiters go about their business which apparently didn’t include feeding us. So we called some one over and they gave us the menu which had a list of breakfast item’s Western style on one side and Cambodian on the other.

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We decided to stick with Western this morning and the Boiled eggs with toasted soldiers and bacon (?) Seemed like the ideal choice. We agreed to the 6 minute boil (rather than the 4 or 8 minute boil) hoping they would be soft enough to dip our soldiers in.

In the mean time we ordered Tea which was a mistake they had a coffee pot full of water on a coffee percolator but it only had one tea bag so when it was poured into the cup it was a bit weak, when they added 50% milk, it was undrinkable.

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So we tried the coffee which is very strong, and needed extra Milk. Unfortunately they had run out of Milk.

By this time our Eggs had arrived, minus the soldiers and the Bacon.

We called the waiter over and explained that they had only delivered half the order. He seemed surprised to see Toast and Bacon on the menu even though he had been working here for ever. So off he went to give someone a clip round the ear and get us back on track.

Fearing the worst I spotted some sliced bread and a toaster on the breakfast counter and figured I could make my own. So I placed two slices in the toaster, pushed down the switch and waited. After a few minutes the toast popped up, but it looked a bit anaemic.
“Was it done enough for me”? The waiter asked.

“Not really, they’re not cooked”. I replied.

He scrunched up his face and then, switched on the electricity. Silly old me.

Back  at the table the updated food had arrived.

Some well done streaky bacon and 4 strips of plain white bread, un-toasted. Much too soft and flexible to dip into an egg yolk.

Which was just as well because the eggs were hard boiled and there was no way they were made for dipping.

Sensing defeat we  gave breakfast a miss and decided in the future we wouldnt ask for anything as complicated as a Boiled egg and Toast.

 

 

 

Giant Ibis Bus travel.

This is a warning to anyone who is considering using this organisation for transportation.

The Bus is fine, service Ok punctuality etc is all good.

However, after about two and a half hours travel we stopped for a toilet break. We were told all passengers had to get off the bus.

When i came back i found the bus open and got on.

thief

There was a khmer lady who had been sat at the back of the bus (and was obviously friends with the driver and the conductor as they were chatting and laughing together before we left) stood in the isle with a black leather hand bag in her hand.

She immediately put it up on the luggage rack and went to the back of the bus, then came down the isle and got off.

It all looked very suspicious.

When Jaki came back I told her and we agreed to wait and see who went to the bag , that way we would establish if this lady was the owner.

After only 10 minutes we stopped again, this time for lunch and the Australian couple sat next to us picked up the leather bag.

At this point we told the girl to check her bag to ensure her valuables were still there and when she did she discovered 400 Australian Dollars was missing.

I pointed the lady out and we confronted her but she denied it and said she had only moved the bag to get at something behind it.

She made a right fuss shouting and proclaiming her innocence. She opened her wallet and showed us the contents to demonstrate she had no Aussie Dollar but by now she could have changed the money in the first stop or passed it to the people she was travelling with.

The staff on the bus walked off and made it clear they wanted nothing to do with it. They refused to call the police or take any action what so ever.

In fact, they seemed to find it all amusing and after this incident were laughing and joking with the Khmer lady, patting her on the head and generally having aJolly time.

Their lack of help or assistance was disgraceful.

I think, though i don’t know that the first stop was a set up to get us off the bus so the lady could go through the bags. Which means the staff were complicit.

So i suggest anyone using this service take great care with their valuables and dont expect any help or sympathy from staff if things go missing.

Siem Reap. 15th October 2016

When we arrived in Siem Reap it was raining heavily and the forecast was for at least 10 days rain, and the further south the heavier the rain. Our plan was to travel to Phnom Pehn which is on the southern boarder of Cambodia so would be getting really wet.

In a fit of peak we decided to head north, either to Hanoi or into Laos, both of which offered the potential of better weather. So, Jaki set to work finding us options for flights (which turned out to be expensive) or bus travel.

Unfortunately we had already booked a Hotel in Phnom Pehn (the Okay Hotel which as it turns out is the sister hotel of Okay 1 where we are now). Luckily our booking carried a free cancelation up until the 12th October, so we went on line, clicked cancel and hey presto, we were charged $37 for the privilege. (Always read the small print).

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With that festering wound we contacted Bookings.com and asked why? They said it wasn’t anything to do with them, it was the Hotel who insisted on deducting the payment even though the email with the wrong information came from Bookings.com.

We spent the rest of that afternoon and evening sheltering from the rain and wondering why/how we got the weather so badly wrong?

We ate in the restaurant as it was too wet to venture out and got an early night.

The next morning things looked totally different. Despite the weather forecast still saying heavy rain and storm’s it was a beautiful day outside so we got in a Tuk-Tuk and headed for the centre of Siem Reap which was about a 5 minute ride and cost $2.

We were pleasantly surprised. It was clean, modern, fairly relaxed with plenty of bars and restaurants, several markets where they sold tourist Tat as well as vegetables, meat and fish, every stall holder had enough English to say ‘hello’ and ask “do you wanted to buy anything”?

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Dried fish in market

It became a bit repetitive, the same conversation took place at every stall as they tried to get us to buy a scarf or T shirt from them rather than their neighbour who had exactly the same items in stock.

There was some nice jewellery but what it is made of and how valuable it is was beyond us. We did buy two Poncho’s in case it decided to rain again but these are still in their bags as the weather has been great since.

We chose to have breakfast in a Khmer restaurant and noticed they had a Fat boys (it actually said that on the Menu) so I went for that. It was very good, I was stuffed when i finished every last bit.

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Fat Boys Breakfast Khmer style

Jaki’s Omelette was good too and it came with fruit salad which was a nice touch.

We wandered around for an hour but it got too hot so we jumped on a Tuk-Tuk and asked the driver to give us a tour of the town which he did,  taking us to see various attractions that he thought we might like.

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We stopped at a Temple and listened to some musicians, saw the royal palace where the King has never stayed,local schools and Hospitals. The cool breeze was very welcomed and when we eventually had enough we were dropped off at the Temple bar on Pub Street where we had a few drinks before deciding (rashly) to walk home.

Hot and very sweaty we were glad to get back to our room and a cold shower. Not out of choice I might add. The Electric shower didn’t have any power to it so couldn’t heat the water. We did raise this with reception but they didn’t fix it till we complained again on our last day.

At least the next guests will have hot water!

That evening we took a Tuk-Tuk into Town and it was buzzing. Pub street was virtually a pedestrian walk way. The bars had really come to life and there was music playing everywhere. It was like a very nice Koh San Rd.

pub-street

 

 

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The Old Market

We chose a stir fry restaurant on the side of the road where the food was great (I had stir fry noodles and a portion of beef ribs) but the clientele was awful.

There was a very (very) loud American couple who were holding court with a much younger guy they had just met. The conversation, which could be heard by everyone above the din of the street was one way. The Yanks (he from New York, her from the Bronx) revolved around him being unable to go back to the US having receiving over $4 million dollars (most of which he had now spent on drugs and women) in some sort of conspiracy around money laundering and drug trafficking. Boy what a Knob head.

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New Yorks Finest

He gave Trump a real run for his money and was no ambassador for the US.

Having stuffed our faces we found a nice spot outside the Red Piano bar, ordered a few drinks and watched the world go by.

The Tuk-Tuk drivers were plying their trade waiting to pounce as soon as they thought you had finished your drink. Now Tuk -Tuks are extremely useful transport, cheap and eay to use but there are too many drivers and not enough tourists so theres a great deal of competition. So the drivers have developed techniques to give them the edge.

Those that speak good English set up a bit of banter with english tourists and those that can speak German do the same . The Tuk-Tuk guy told us Chinese and Korean are the hardest languages for them to learn and these two groups of tourist are least popular because they stay in big groups, have their own guides and don’t spend money with locals preferring to eat and drink in their Hotels.

There must be a system they Tuk-Yuk Guys use to agree who gets which fare otherwise there would be regular fist fights. One guy latched onto us earl evening and decided we were gonna be his fare. He then waited all night till we were ready to come home, for a $2 fare.

Its a tough old game.

Okay 1 Hotel. Siem Reap. In the rain.

When we arrived at the Hotel it started to rain and it hasn’t stopped which has in effect made us hostage to the Hotel environment and perhaps a bit more critical than we would other wise have been.

The Hotel is a bit ominous with its heavy wooden furniture and dark lighting. It reminds me very much of Munster Manor.

But it’s currently 0529 in the morning, I’ve been awake for the last hour or so tossing and turning and there appears to be a stray dog living under the bed that keeps growling whenever sleep threatens.

My new supply of ear plug’s work well at reducing the noise but after a week of use they have made my ear’s sore and I have had to take them out as the sore ness is waking me up. Which is why I’m aware of the dog growling.

So its time to vent my spleen, or at least to take a critical look at our surroundings which  under normal circumstances might suffice but in the rain, leave a lot to be desired.

See, this place is functional, like a church hurriedly built to meet the need to pray without distractions of creature comforts.

The room is basic, It has a bed, the bed is big, firm and clean though it only has one sheet which has already been commandeered.

It has two pillows, one each but they aren’t substantial enough to given any real support.

There is a working TV set with a good choice of channels, though the screen is small and the remote doesn’t work so you have to keep getting up from the bed to make changes.

There is no chair so the bed is the only place to sit.

The furniture is old fashioned, heavy dark wood. Functional but we are a bit reluctant to put our clothing in the drawers so its all still in the suitcases which are taking up most of the floor space.

There is a small fridge,and a safety deposit box.

There is a ceiling fan which is wonderfully quiet but it is right over the bed so blows a draft directly onto the occupants and this has woken me up several times already. We haven’t as yet found the switch to shut this off so have resorted to removing the door key from it socket which is intended to shut off power to the room when you leave.

There’s a large extractor fan in the wall and an air conditioner though we haven’t had to use that yet as the rain has dropped the temperature to bearable levels.

The lighting is strange with 2 x foot strip light’s on two walls and two bamboo hat stands with a bulb wired in at either side of the bed but there is a shortage of sockets so only one can be plugged in at a time.

There is also a strange light over the bed which we couldn’t initially turn off. We later found a dimmer switch behind the head board  but this cant be reached without pulling the bed away from the wall.

The shower room must have been designed on a bad day. Theres’ a sink with a tap which has hot water. A small wooden rack where items can be placed and a mirror. Theres a western toilet but it seems to leak as the floor is constantly wet around its base though this may be due to the shower which is on the wall next to the toilet and when switched on discharges all over the toilet, the seat, the toilet paper and the bin, both of which we have now moved to higher ground.

Unfortunately the Electric shower doesn’t work so there is no hot water. There is also a very dodgy looking joint in the live electricity feed to the shower which is wrapped in Insulation tape but could be lethal if it got wet.

The roof terrace may well be appealing, even attractive on a sunny day but at night with the rain beating down it wasn’t the best place to bunker down.

The tables and chairs are hard wood, straight backed offering little or no comfort to the guests who are trying their best to sit out the storm by listening to music or watching Tv on their Phones. Wifi signal is good here.

Most  of the tables are exposed to the rain and have been covered over by sheets of plastic.

The lighting is barely functional but completely unattractive and the pool is in pitch darkness. No pool lighting at all.

The pool in reality is very small nothing like the image portrayed on the web site. On a hot day it would be rammed.

The small  bar offers a range of drinks and we ordered some food which was very good though the service is a bit slap dash and the waiter could really do with a change of shirt and some roll on deodorant.

Given the weather forecast for at least the next week is not good we’ve been looking at options.

It would appear that we were premature in coming to Cambodia as the general consensus is that October is often wet. Something we seem to have missed when we looked at the forecast from home.

Our plan was to travel to Phnom Pehn in two days time and as such we had made a provisional booking in a Hotel there using Bookings.com.

However, the weather is dryer farther North and Phnom Pehn is South so we decided to cancel the booking at the last minute. We understood the booking allowed us to cancel free of charge until the 12th of October, (at least thats what the email said).

Unfortunately once I had cancelled they advised via e mail that there was a $37.12 charge for cancelation.

So not a great move on our part.

Jaki has been looking at ways of getting to Hanoi or North into Laos in order to get better weather but there are complications.

To fly to Hanoi is about $160 each and there doesn’t as yet appear to be a cheaper way.

To get to Norther Laos over land we have to cross the boarder which will entail another Visa charge and I’m not sure if we will then have to pay to come back into Cambodia again in the future?

So the cost could mount up which ever option we choose.

Currently our plan is to go out later and buy some wet weather gear (should have brought our Glastonbury clothing) and try to explore Angkor Wat in the rain. Then move on, hopefully north in order to find some drier weather.

Or we sit it out here and wait for it to improve, in which case we will need to find a slightly more modern Hotel that at least has some comfortable space to while away a rainy day.

No one said it would be easy!

 

Hotel OKAY 1. Siem Reap. Cambodia

Were sat on the roof of our hotel sheltering from the torrential rain that is falling.

Its quite nice looking out across the roof tops as the rain bounces off the tiles though it’s a bit cool and there’s a breeze, not as balmy as it was in Bangkok though the thunder is still rumbling away in the distance.

The flight was only an hour and before I could get my kindle out and find my page we were coming back down again. They did give us a pack of sandwiches which were rather tasty but it was all a bit rushed and probably unnecessary.

I did though enjoy my second dancing lesson of the Holiday which I like to think of as the ‘Air Asia Hop.’

The stewardess needed to stamp our boarding card’s part way through the flight (why) which meant I had to get my back pack out of the overhead locker. The guy in front of me had wedged a huge carry on bag in the locker which had to come out before I could get to mine. So I gave it a bit of a Yank, just as we hit a bit of turbulence.

The sudden Lurch set me off, backward down the Isle with the bag still held over my head, I was gaining speed and had nearly reached First class when one of the stewards blocked my path and grabbed me by the seat of my pants thus avoiding a major incident and the cost of an upgrade.

There was a further form to complete during the flight, most of which simply repeated the information already given a dozen times.

When we disembarked and entered the terminal building we found all the visa application forms had been taken so there was a bit of a delay until I found a guy in uniform who went and got a fresh batch.
We completed this form, repeating yet again the same information and then queued up to pay our $30 each for the privilege of entering the country. We queued again to get our passports back, duly stamped and then made our way to Immigration, where we queued again.

Photo, fingerprints, scowl from official, then we were finally through.

The next challenge was Money.

We’d brought US Dollars but had no local currency and (didn’t even know what it was).

So we went to the Bureau de Change and had one of those conversations that make you wonder if your in a parallel  universe.

It went a bit like this.

Jaki. “How much (Local currency) do you think we should get”?

Bill. “I don’t Know, how about $50”?

Jaki. “That wont be enough”?

Bill. “How much should we  change then”?

Jaki. “I don’t know that’s why I asked you”!

I felt a bit giddy at this point and had to take some Gaviscon.

Once outside we saw our name held up on a card and were taken to a Tuk-Tuk of some local construction which is towed by a small Honda 5o. The trailer simply sits astride the passenger seat.

It didn’t go very fast and the driver had to keep changing gear but it gave us an opportunity to see the country side in a relaxed way and I have to say it looked good. Much cleaner and far more modern than I had imagined. We felt rather comfortable.

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roof top pool OKAY 1

Once we got to our Hotel the first surprise was that you have to take your shoes off outside, you cant wear shoes inside.

The next surprise was the view from the window. An air conditioning unit on the wall of the next building. I guess we wont be spending much time looking out at that particular view but the room is clean and comfortable if a little old fashioned.

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Reception OKAY 1

There is good wifi and it even works on the roof where theres a bar, restaurant and pool.

If only it would stop raining we might have some fun, but the prospect for the next week is rain every day, everywhere in the whole of Asia. Apparently despite all the home work, we chose to come here in the wettest month of the year.
So much for our planning!

 

 

 

 

Siem Reap, Cambodia. 12th oct 2016

Travel day today so we started packing last night which meant we had a bit of spare time this morning.

We went for our last breakfast (like a condemned man) but sadly it was a bit of an anti climax. My new found conversion to vegetarianism was sorely tested as I passed the Canadian Bacon section, which was next to the sausage section.

But I stuck with it and walked away with Toast, Beans, Sauté Mushrooms (not the sort we have at home but a much more exotic type) and scrambled eggs which were sadly served up cold.

It doesn’t take long to get used to this 5 star life style and I’m already starting to find fault.

The Tea has been a disappointment, often served tepid so this morning I asked for Hot tea and It almost was.

Apart from that I cant really complain about anything. The room was fantastic, with an amazing view of the river. The bed was so comfortable I really didn’t want to get up in the mornings.

The TV worked, though it seemed to be dominated by tales of Donal J Trump, a sort of children’s Fairy Tale where Trump is the villain and Hillary the Princess.

The Wifi was fast and constant, the pool was bloody long and took some effort to do my ten lengths.

In fact, I wish we were staying longer though I don’t think the Bank Account could cope. The room (including Breakfast was 3000Baht plus taxes and additions it worked out at about 4000 Baht a night which we estimate is around £100.

For two people I don’t think thats too bad?

The place has changed a bit since our last stay in 2013.

There are far more Chinese Guests here now than there were which I guess demonstrates the rise of the Chinese economy.

Sitting by the pool allowed me plenty of time to observe how our new found friends (the special relationship) behave and it was quite amusing.

The youngsters seemed to have a certain style which is part European and part Avitar.

Hair styles are often flamboyant (with the guys leading the way) or plain with plenty of heavy straight cut fringes still in evidence.

‘Cutesy’ stuff seems to be a thing.

Lots of bows, fairy dresses, headbands with little ears and that dopey Frigging cat thing all over the place. Hello Kitty?

I watched two young girls taking pictures of each other in the pool.

Their posing was slightly over the top. Lots of pouting, head tilted to one side, fingers in a ‘V’ in front of one eye, all very trendy I suspect and highly amusing ,given they both wore float aids.

It would appear the Chinese aren’t big on swimming preferring to walk around in the pool clutching various items of a  floating nature (rubber rings and Beach balls seemed to be the favourite) whilst wearing full body cover and a large floppy hat.

Their favourite pass time seemed to be walking across the pool just when I was trying to swim a length. They got good at that.

They don’t seem to be big on ball skills either.

A young lad was playing catch with his dad and the ball hit him in the face more times than not.

I laughed out loud when he tried to throw the ball back to Dad and it flew out of his hand, over his shoulder and into the pool. He stared at his empty hand in utter amazement.

Like he did when he tried to kick the ball back and got a leg full of air

It seems if we want to beat the Chinese at anything we should choose water polo?

I even observed a very big guy put swimming goggles on when he went in the foot bath.

They also like to wear their dressing gowns and slippers down to the pool and these are often slightly small so they flap open exposing nice round beer bellies, just like an NHS operating gown.

So, I kept myself amused even during the thunder storm and heavy rain that hit yesterday. We scurried from the pool area back to our room which was lucky as our newly washed clothing that had been left out to dry, was disappearing over the balcony rail and into the trees 18 floors below.

The weather improved sufficiently for us to venture out that evening. We caught the water taxi up to Sathon Terminal and then the express boat up to pier 13 where we met up with Nahema one of our traveling chums form India.

She is staying in a Hostel in Bangkok waiting to join yet another G adventures tour through Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam so our paths may cross again in the future.

WE walked across to Rambuttri Alley and on route stopped for a drink. I ordered a small Sangsom (whiskey) and coke. Luckily I ordered a small as they brought me  a half bottle for (about 200 Baht) rather than a glass.

This area of Bangkok seems to have been given a make over and its much cleaner, neater and more organised than it was on our last trip. The street food stalls have been moved on to be replaced by more traditional restaurants that charge much more but don’t offer any better quality. I ordered Pad Thai in Magic Cafe which was underwhelming. It was slapped onto the table by a very bored young man in a Base ball cap who said he didn’t speak English, in perfect English.

Cleaner, smarter it might be but I preferred the old Rambuttri, the shambolic, chaotic one where everyone was laughing and up to mischief, rather than this sterile version.

Some thing has been lost I fear.

Unfortunately we missed the last water Taxi back to the Hotel so we agreed a price of 250 Baht with a Tuk-Tuk driver who proved to be on the run from a local hospital. He was completely insane, spoke Pigeon-English but made up for this by miming or making animated noises, all the while steering his Tuk-Tuk through the Bangkok traffic.

He took us through the Indian Quarter and through China Town both of which could be identified by their pungent smells, the spices of India and China were heavy in the evening air.

Past the royal palace and a dozen other temples before depositing us back at our Hotel, slightly wind blown and a bit the worse for the Diesel Fumes but otherwise, in great shape.

I shall miss Bangkok.

So now were sat in the airport waiting for our flight and the next bit of the adventure.

If its half as good as Bangkok, it will be brilliant.

Photos to follow.

 

 

 

Cambodia. 9th Sept 2016

A Tomato stopped me getting a Cambodian Visa.

Well, not ‘A Tomato’ but a whole ‘load’ of Tomatoes.

See, Ive grown some Tomatoes in my green house. I bought the plants for 40 pence each from a bloke down the road who had a sign up outside his house.

Initially they looked terribly spindly and I winged, wishing I’d Planted Money Maker or another proprietary brand but these weak little things have given me the best crop of tomatoes Ive had for years. (Jaki counted in excess of 90 fruits).

So, as a way of using them up I roasted a great dish full, then blitzed them with Garlic,  fresh Thyme ,a chilli and some seasoning. Dropped a dollop of Yoghurt in the mix and it made a great Tomato soup for supper . (Supper! Very Mary Berry).

Unfortunately I find Tomatoes are a very effective diuretic , so last night I went for the world record for getting up to have a pee. If I  was awake for all of them, which I may not have been, it was six times, including the one at about 0715 this morning.

Which is why I was up so early and I decided I may as well do something useful so set about making my Cambodian Visa application, on line.

It was all going swimmingly till the Wi-fi crashed. (Is that the correct terminology or is it Froze or timed out?) Anyway, the laptop lost the wifi connection and as a result my Visa application went down the tubes.

So I decided to see if I could fix the situation.

We’ve not had a great experience with Virgin Media since we’ve been in this house. The Tivo box has been replaced but still takes ages to do anything, often decides it doesn’t want to play at all (usually there are two little red lights on the right hand side of the box when this happens) or Buffers so badly it make watching painful. The Wi-fi is intermittent, slow and often bugger’s off some where when you least expect it, like when you’r listening to a play on radio 4 or half way through a track on Spotify.

That’s  why I went onto the Virgin Media web site and looked for the trouble shooting page for my Router. (Super Hub).

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It told me to check my Cables.  Cable’s duly checked!

Then it said. Try connecting an Ethernet cable between the Router and the Computer.

Now, here’s a thing. There isn’t a connection for Ethernet on a MacBook Air!

I pressed on regardless to the next bit.

‘Changing your wireless Channel.’

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It told me that I should down load an App called KisMac to identify the best channel to swap to and offered a link. Except that when you click on the link it says this web site isn’t available.

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As a result, I was unable to repair the Wifi, I was unable to complete the Visa application and I was unable to go back to sleep and I didn’t break the world Peeing record, I Failed by some distance.

All because of them Bloody Tomatoes.

Not a great start to the day but after yesterday and the Hypertension Clinic what did you expect?

What about the Hypertension clinic you ask?

OK, I’ll explain, though you need to be patient. No pun intended.

I got a letter from my GP telling me I was due for a Hypertension review and would I make an appointment for this to happen.

Our Surgery has an on line booking system that they are very proud of. In fact they boast how great it is.

 

So I went on line to book and the options were :-

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I clicked ‘Request an appointment’ and it asked whether I wanted to see a Doctor (don’t think that was necessary) or Bloods. I chose ‘Bloods’ and made an appointment. That just seemed sensible right?

Well, I turned up at the allocated time and went in to see the nurse who told me she was sorry but she wasn’t able to do the Hypertension review’. It appears you have to see another Nurse for that and the web site doesn’t allow you to book that appointment.

Yes she understood how frustrating it was, they get it all the time! 

I asked what I should do with the early morning Urine sample I had tucked in my pocket?

She seemed surprised and said they don’t usually test Urine on a Hypertension clinic.

Even though the letter they sent told me to bring one? I asked.

At this point a head popped through the door from an adjoining room like a Jack-in-the-Box and kindly offered to test the urine for me.

It transpired that this was the lady I should have seen and she wasn’t doing anything at that moment so was happy to test my sample.

My Nurse asked me if I was due for a PSA (Prostate Specific Antibody ) test but as I didn’t have access to my notes, couldn’t read her computer screen from where I was sat and haven’t done a Telepathy Course for ages, I said I didn’t Know.

So she sucked a bottle of blood out of my arm, told me to make another appointment (to see the proper blood nurse) and off I went.

When I got home I had a text from the NHS asking me if I would recommend a friend to Frome Valley based on my experience.

1. Meant I was very Happy to do this and 5. Meant I wouldn’t send Idi Amin along.

I put a 5 which I thought was very generous given my experience and pressed send.

Sadly the message wouldn’t send.When I re-read the note it was headed NHS-No-Reply.

So here’s another thing. Are they asking you to evaluate their service on a message that doesn’t have a reply option?

(No wonder my surgery is rated so highly.)

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On closer inspection it gave a telephone number 07800008113 and an e mail address mjog.fromevalley@nhs.net  which I assume you use to send them your evaluation score rather than replying to the Text?

So, I sent the e-mail with just the number ‘5’ on it and got this reply.

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Does ‘Not Monitored’ Mean nobody reads it?

Does anybody have any Idea what is going on cause I sure as hell don’t!

 

At last a Plan. 6th Sept 2016

At last, a plan.

We’ve spent the last 48 hours thinking about, talking about and in some cases, arguing about our travel plans.

With the help of our resident Back packer we were able to sort the wheat from the chaff, something we couldn’t seem to do on our own, and focus.

So this morning we settled it. We decided to fly from Bangkok to Siem Reap in Cambodia as our first excursion.  That would then give us the evidence that we were intending to leave Thailand within 30 days.

Jaki had found some cheap prices for this flight and it ended up being cheaper than getting the travel agents to source a Visa.

On line we found the cheapest flight (using Sky Scanner) was with Air Asia at £35 but this was a relatively early flight and it came with no baggage allowance.

We decided on the 1330 flight which was advertised at £42 each.

Then the fun began.

We went all the way through the booking process, gave all the details required and paid an additional fee of just over 600 Baht to allow us to take 20Kg of hold luggage. This also entitled us to a free meal and allocated seating (without this the extra bag was 500 Baht and we may not be sat together. Though if this pressure keeps up, we might be glad of that.)

So, total price about £55 depending on exchange rates operable at the time.

When it came to paying we chose to use Mastercard  Credit and then there was an increase in price (as it turned out, there was an increase in price for using Debit card too) but it was still within budget. So we pressed PAY.

After a few whirls and clicks the screen told us the card had been rejected.

Undeterred we went through the whole process again, entered the details and pressed PAY.

Worryingly it threw us out again.

We tried to go back to an earlier stage in the process but even then when we got to the screen it bumped us out yet again.

A change of plan was called for. We Googled Trip Advisor and sought a price from them.

The same series of options came up and the price was miraculously, nearly the same. We accepted the Air Asia flight, entered more information including our passport number and got to the paying section.

I decided to use a different card this time and entered the details. Then pressed PAY.

There was a moment when we thought that was it, we had secured our seats. However when the Visa verification screen came up, it started showing  several thousand IRD.

Whoah, what the hell is this about???

In panic we immediately stopped the payment. This triggered an automated call from the bank who gave me a code and told me to phone them quoting the code, which i did. After about 20 minutes listening to some crap music because they were “Experiencing an increased volume of calls at this time” I got through to  a nice lady called Donata who sorted everything out for me.

No, I hadn’t been charged and yes I could use my Card again.

As it turned out IRD is Indonesian Currency and the screen had worked out the price in that currency rather than converting it to pounds, so it may well have been Ok but as we hadn’t done the Math’s for the conversion we would have no idea just how much we were agreeing to pay.

So, we went back to the drawing board, googled Sky Scanner, went through the process afresh and this time I was offered the option of using my American Express card, entered the details and behold, 3 and a half hours after we started, we are now the proud owners of two ticket’s to Siem Reap.

Whilst I was on a roll I looked at hotels in Siem Reap and Bookings.Com offered me  a double room at ‘Okay 1 Villa’ a very nice looking place at £48 for two people for three nights, including, Air con, A pool, WiFi and free airport pick up. A ridiculously low price.

So that’s it.Done.

The first part of the adventure is now in the bag.

Result.