Koh Phangan – day 377

The night before I did something incredibly clumsy. Shuffling and bouncing down the bed to turn off the light I managed to run a finger nail across my thigh. I have no idea how I managed such a monumental idiotic thing. But, it left me with a gash like a feral cat had attacked me. And wow did it sting like heck in the shower. Nothing a spot of breakfast and a full pot of fresh lemongrass tea couldn’t cure. Grown in the garden by the owners, three bunches of aromatic stems were uprooted and steeped in hot water. Even Katherine enjoyed some of it. Without being vulgar, I was hydrated enough for the day.

We tried to go for a walk along the beach to Haad Rin, hopefully see the infamous site of the full moon party. We didn’t get at when we found a big dead fish on the shore. Later we found out that it was a baby dolphin. It is very uncommon to have this happen and now in the space of a week there has been two. Our owner reckons that fisherman have caught them in illegal nets and dumped them so not to be prosecuted. Whatever the reason, the rotting carcass of the cetacean hummed above the smell of the seaweed as we crossed over the rocky outcrops to the next stretch of beach. We weren’t able to get very far with the high tide making the route impassable. We doubled back, had a chocolate shake and chilled for the afternoon. There may have been a rather competitive game of monopoly that I shouldn’t have won, but someone was too generous with their trading of properties following my spectacular strop of going to jail for the third time. img_2624img_2625img_2626We got further along the beach in the afternoon. The ebbing tide allowed quicker progress and we got around another few peninsulas. However, there was no visible route to continue or perhaps it was still too high, but we retreated, chilled on a rock watching some kayakers and continued down the beach in the other direction past our place. It made for a quicker way to 7 Eleven where we found coconut jelly drinks and custard bread for an incredibly late lunch. img_2637img_2640img_2646img_2652img_2654img_2656I just made it back to the room in time. Tummy cramps berated the last few kilometres and I was in agony. Not sure what gave me the stomach bug this time – normally I have an idea from my dodgy experimental food stalls – but, it was carnage and draining. A bowl of plain green curry and rice for dinner to settle everything out again, we confined ourselves in the room with tv episodes and the fan to pass away the rest of the evening.

Tuesday 18th October 2016

Koh Phangan – day 376

I feel that today’s blog should begin with a lighthearted poem. Not much else happened and it is a bit of a filler, but once you read it, I’m hoping it will lift your spirits. 

‘Come to the beach

Where the sea is blue 

And little white waves 

Come running at you. 
A wave comes splashing 

Over your toes. 

You just stand still

And away it goes. 
We’ll build a castle

Down by the sea

And look for shells

If you’ll come with me.’
Fruit, muesli, yoghurt and honey is calling to our fruit & veg deprived bodies and it’s filling us up happily until lunch. But, getting up at a leisurely hour, sitting on our ass and flicking through a mag, swiping candies on an iPad, reading posts and news articles on social media and such… isn’t very taxing. So we easily arrive at lunchtime for Pad Thai noodles. 

So, today is the day of the Full Moon party. My spidey senses think the full moon was actually the night before, but yesterday was a holy Buddhist day and the sale of alcohol was forbidden in shops. Maybe it was respectfully moved to the next night. Thus, with respect in mind, the full moon party itself was cancelled. The death of the Thai king, His Highness Bhumibol Adulyadej, has meant the country is in mourning. All organised festivities have been cancelled, with concerts organising refunds, bars and business shutting up shop for the foreseeable future, etc. There is a 100 day of mourning period and everyone needs to be on their best behaviour – articles even cite a local being forced to their knees to show respect to the king’s portrait. Hemming and hawing about whether or not to join the party has been decided for us. We don’t want to be present at an event (which everyone seems to be getting ready to go to), out of respect for the Thai people and when there’s a chance of people getting arrested. Everything we had read on the internet has said that the full moon party had been cancelled but we’d overheard several tourists stating they were going to ‘go there anyway and get something started’… Slightly disappointed by the lack of cultural insensitivity displayed by some people. But, we have unfortunately met our fair share of ‘tourists’ like this during our travels. 

Showing our respect, avoiding the potentially difficult situation, we stayed at the resort. We were rewarded/vindicated when the heavens opened for several hours, downpours of torrential rain that was deafening and flattened the footprints in the sand. Knowing that the staff weren’t overloaded with food orders and run off their feet, we ordered chilli cheese fries and tacos. 

We had seen them being prepared several times in the kitchen and we envied the platters being served to others. Tonight we feasted and it was fantastic. Waddling back to our hut, we had had a perfect day. 

Monday 17th October 2016

Koh Phangan – day 375

The mattress is amazing. I know this is a trivial matter – who cares about a mattress. But, weeks and months of soft beds, hard beds, beds that envelope you, single beds, mosquito infested rooms, night buses, etc. only to have a double bed that has a nice soft top layer to it, but support for your back… bliss! A semi decent shower, a scrumptious breakfast of muesli, fruit, yoghurt and honey (pushing the boat out) and we were ready for the day. To do, pause for dramatic effect, diddly squat. Exactly what the doctor ordered. 

Hours of reading books, filling in magazine puzzles, watching tv episodes, interspersed with fried rice, shakes, and the pleasure of an ocean backdrop. It was time to unwind and our bodies didn’t really know if it could handle it. I banged out another job application in vain attempts of being productive and hopeful. Katherine caught up on some WordPress blogs.We went for a stroll out to the sandbar in front of our shore. It was relaxing walking out in the shallows, seeing baby crabs wiggle their calcareous little bottoms into the sand and worms retracting from the shadow we cast over them. The umbrellas on the sandbar were a little out of place. Nobody had used them all day, but perhaps it’s the impending bad weather and not so pristine water conditions that are keeping folks away. I can imagine deck chairs arrayed in the high season and a drinks menu being brought out several times a day. For the present, it was nothing how it could look, but we have good imaginations. The same hotel next door that provides the umbrellas on the sandbar are the same same ones that rake the sand and leave the detritus in front of our hut and plays films on the outdoor screen. Not to worry, we enjoyed the flame poles they stuck in the shallows and the giant, illuminated ‘love’ sign on wooden platforms. It’s a nice feature and probably for the benefit of the honeymoon suite right next to us. So, we’re doing pretty good with cheaper accommodation (presumably), fresher food (we can see it cooked from scratch) and the same views (albeit ours has a bit more rubbish). Not bad work on Katherine’s part to find us this pad. Score!Sunday 16th October 2016

Travelling & Koh Phangan – day 374

No great bus journey is complete without a conductor shouting at you at 1am to get off the bus. The restaurant that we had conveniently stopped in front of, along with 5 other buses, had a selection of stale and rancid curries on offer. However, this worked to their advantage, with a storming trade in Pringles. It was a unique stop, in that they offered to charge your phone for 20baht. Must be a desperate situation to need to charge a phone for 30minutes before being whisked off again. Katherine was hitting it off with the 2x Belgian girls. A mutual dislike of the NYC girl the night before and everyone smoking in our vicinity when we had found a quiet spot, meant for an talkative 40mins before being allowed back on the bus. 

A bit of restless sleep and we were shouted off the bus again at 6am – this time in the bus companies own personal depot, complete with toilets they charge for and a shop that sold sandwiches, more Pringles and cigarettes. Of course, the mark up was worthy of a Sheikh. A further hour sat on our ass, twiddling our thumbs and we were ferried back in the bus with other arrivals to go to the Donasak ferry terminal. This terminal was proper nice, i.e. clean, free toilet, comfortable seating, glorious views and food that was affordable. We got chatting with Claire and Caroline again and sat together for the ferry to the island. A rather leisurely (and not so painful) three hours later we only briefly stopped at Koh Samui before arriving at Koh Phangan. Oh the joys of travelling. Almost 18hours to get from A to B. The taxi tuktuk drivers charged us 100baht each for the privilege of 6.7km and we arrived at our charming little resort. Pad Thai noodles with the waves crashing on the beach. 

Our beach is not the picture perfect postcard setting that one might expect. It has seaweed, rubbish and the low tide reveals silty areas with coral fragments. But, the herons munch on the sand fleas, crabs hide in our stretch of vegetation between neighbouring resorts and the view is still pretty awesome and the sound still magical. A delicious dinner later that evening, a few episodes of tv and the day ended pretty damn well. Saturday 15th October 2016

Bangkok & travelling – day 373

Sniffing all night, constant wriggling and when she did get some sleep I’m sure it was with bad dreams – fitful and restless. Then there was the beeping: a car honking away from someone who had clearly blocked in him/her and they were pissed. So it continued for at least 15mins. There was always the hope of falling back to sleep and getting an hour rest, but no, the brain had clearly written off any decent rest for the night. A cruel joke and I’m now pretty tired writing today’s blog. 
A few hours adding photos to blog, a leisurely shower and we finally descended to reception to continue work on the laptop and iPad. I found a nice vacancy for January 2017, so even though the deadline isn’t for another fortnight, it was best to plough through it and that way have the opportunity to apply for something else at another time. Katherine went and got us lunch. A nice treat of a toastie sandwich AND a pot of noodles. It kept me going for the afternoon and even when I wanted to throw the little netbooks across the room – the little blue circle constantly spinning, but not loading my gmail to send the application. I think the combination of guests watching Power Rangers and the staff watching a live stream of events was crippling the poor wifi. I do not for one second begrudge the staff this streaming – watching events and mourners after the loss of their king. Suspicions the night before were confirmed and the sadness was felt in the city. 

I grabbed us a take away dinner from our restaurant. The streets were relatively quiet, but traffic was already a nightmare. I think businesses are closing early and everyone is off to pay their respect to the royal family. 2x sets of red curry later and we hailed a taxi to get us to the station. Leaving earlier than necessary for precaution, we were there with almost an hour before our bus should arrive. The railway station seems more organised than we remembered it from 3 years ago and the air conditioning was blissful. Sticking our heads outside before 18:50 at the rendez-vous, we waited another 40minutes before a rep appeared to tell us the bus was severely delayed in the traffic. Go back inside and enjoy the cool air. I love this rep. 
We noticed that somewhere between 70 – 90% of the Thai nationalities were wearing black. Staying out of the way in the main hall we watched the throng of tourists flit about with the stickers we had been tagged with. Now on a bus at 21:10, Katherine has had her toes rolled over, an elbow to the tummy and a reclining chair bang her knees… all from the same obnoxious girl from NYC. My ears are bleeding from the mixtures of loud laughter, incessant coughing, constant chatter and the rattle of the overhead luggage compartment. I did say I was tired, I may just kill someone during the night – I have been watching a few episodes of Dexter, I’ll only take out the ones interrupting my serenity and calm. 😜 Enough petty talk and jest, I’m going to watch something on the iPad and hopefully get some sleep. 

Friday 14th October 2016

50 things we’ve learnt during our 25 days in Cambodia. 

1. The border crossing of Thailand and Cambodia is not as scary as it is made out to be on Internet forums. 2. The staff at immigration won’t let you use their toilet if you don’t pay the ‘administration’ fee. 

3. Always have a pen!!!

4. Everyone at Poipet that has a motor on a set of wheels will offer you a taxi service to where ever you want. They will even drive on the wrong side of the road to offer this, for several hundred metres. 

5. They drive on the right hand side of the road. (Opposite side to Thailand, even though they share such similarities in other areas.)

6. There are several casinos in no-mans land. Apparently, one does not need a visa to visit them. 

7. The ATMs at Poipet don’t accept foreign cards. Bring extra dollars for your onwards journeys that day. 

8. Sparrows are sold as pets. At least we hope they were for pets. So too are pigeons. Swifts are trained to return to their cages once set free. 

9. Credit card machines produce three receipts. Two need to be signed, even though it was written not to sign them. 

10. Cantonese for ‘shit’ is the same word for ‘colour’ in Khmer. 

11. There are about 40 species of frog in Cambodia. Supposedly, all of them are edible, but the spawn of one of them is poisonous. 

12. There is an edible leaf in the jungle that tastes exactly like a Granny Smith apple. 

13. The prices are nearly exclusively in dollars. To pay in Riels you may lose some money on the exchange. However, if you buy local you save a fortune as they typically only deal in their own currency. 

14. Teak trees have a hole gouged in to them and a fire lit. Sap will gather in the hole for 24hrs for collection, to be used for a variety of purposes including lighter fuel and sealing boats. 

15. The traditional greeting is the Sompiah, a slight bow with hands together in front of your chest, fingers pointed up. It is the equivalent of a handshake in western society. 

16. It would appear that dog shit is set on fire with several combustibles added, rather than move it away from their shop premises. 

17. You feel like a hostage because of rain. It’s remarkable and scary all at the same time. 

18. There is a powder that the Cambodians use, apparently, that helps to make ice quicker. It is visible in the bottom of a glass when the ice melts. We have never seen it, but have been told about it. Can’t find it online either. 

19. 1 in 300 Cambodians are victim to a landmine. 

20.  It costs $5 to lay a mine and $500 to remove it. The old way to find and dismantle a land mine was with a stick and a pliers. 

21. The Falklands Islands have several mine fields after the war. They are now popular places for penguins (too light to trigger the mines) and this has led to ecotourism. Efforts are ongoing to prevent the removal of these mines. 

22. When exchanging money, it is courteous to use both hands. If that is not possible, then your left hand should be touching your right elbow as the transfer is made.

23. Cambodian drivers manoeuvre first, look second. 

24. HiSo (High Society) is a term used to describe the upper class women of Thailand. I think other SE Asian countries are trying to adopt this status. 

25. Prahok is a crushed, salted and fermented fish paste (usually of mudfish) that is used in cuisine as a seasoning or a condiment. If someone at your table orders it, do yourself a favour and don’t try it. It’s disgusting. 

26. Kralan is a typical Cambodia savoury snack. It consists of sticky rice cooked in coconut milk, with black eyed peas or beans stuffed inside a bamboo cane. The cooking of it is a long and fuel consuming process. It is one of the few guaranteed safe foods to eat from the side of the road. 

27. We saw several locals counting money on blood stained chopping boards. Use your hand sanitizer whenever you touch the notes! 

28. Lilly pads are sometimes used as an extra layer for a chopping board. Genius!

29. Luggage doesn’t need to fit in the mini van/bus! Strap a few ropes around the back door (open or closed) and stack up your motorbike and boxes on the back. It gives you more room for passengers inside.

30. You can fire a rocket launcher for $350, or machine guns for $1 a bullet. 

31. There are very few pigeons in Cambodia. In fact we only saw them outside the royal palace where locals feed them and take selfies. 

32. Apparently (hearsay and only 1 article on Google that remotely reference it), if a pig has 5 toes it isn’t killed and is sent to live with the monks at the temple. 

33. We reckon the schools along the Mekong teach swimming for half the year and soccer for the other half. The pitch was flooded to just below the goalpost crossbars.

34. We overheard a guide at the royal palace, Phnom Penh say that the colours of temple roof reflect the seasons of the year. I cannot, after extensive research, confirm this architectural feature. But, the colours are beautiful. 

35. ATMs can dispense fake money (US Dollars). Hold up your money to the camera when you make a withdrawal and go through them to check. 

36. There are two types of medicine in a pharmacy. Tourists should request the western medicine and not the Chinese medicine/brands.

37. Between 1975 and 1979, the Khmer Rouge were responsible for the deaths of nearly 2 million people. 

38. The bamboo train (called a norry/nori) was designed to be dismantled and moved if another bamboo train was on the line. The train with less goods and easier to dismantle had to give right of way. The process is really cool to see. 

39. Katherine is loving Cambodian cuisine – there is shed loads of ginger in every dish. 

40. The smoothies in this country are by far the worst we’ve ever had. 

41. The female toilets at the bus station in Phnom Penh were past the men’s urinals. This info is crucial to the next statement. We saw that they use pineapple chunks in the urinals instead of little blue sanitizer blocks. 

42. There’s a clear problem with tuk tuk drivers at the Sorya bus station (PP), as they have 2x staff and a barrier when buses arrive. People beware!

43. They sensibly use sticky ice packs on their babies to help keep them cool. 

44. In the Khmer alphabet, there are 23 dependent vowels, 13 independent vowels and 33 consonants. It takes children 3 years to leant it as it’s so complicated. There is also no breaks in the written sentences. 

45. Comedian Charlie Chaplin visited Cambodia in 1936. To this day, comedians in the country wear a fake or drawn on moustache like Charlot had. 

46. Weddings are a three day event. Yikes!

47. The higher the house is on stilts (or built higher) means you have more money. There is a funny story about a German man and a high storey house in the Mondulkiri region if anyone is ever interested. 

48. It is estimated that approximately 37.5 kg of fish is consumed annually per person. The figure is as high as 67 kg/person for those who reside around Tonle Sap Great Lake and Mekong River. 

49. The majority of rubbish bins around the country are made from old tyres. 

50. We saw a poster for blueberry Fanta at the beginning of our adventure in Cambodia. At the end of the trip I checked the internet. It looks like Coca-Cola don’t make it anymore. Sob!

Travelling – day 372

We’re notorious for getting up early on a day of travelling. Nervous of sleeping in and missing a bus/train/ferry/flight we prefer to be up and chatting or surfing Facebook than stressing about packing and running late. But, after a year of travelling, we should give ourselves a bit more credit. Washed, dressed and packed within the hour, we hit the street at 7bells to look for breakfast. We say look loosely, cause we knew we were going to make a beeline directly across the road to the bakery. Some pastries, donuts and cakes for the day (not just brekkie) and a wander through the market to look for loo roll (just in case) we were back in the room with plenty of time to kick back, relax and wait for the bus. The mini van turned up just as we were leaving the hotel lobby. Perfect timing! We were at the ticket office only a few minutes later to transfer to another bus. Well, they called it a bus because they fit 5 foreign adults in to the vehicle, but it was a small jeep. Katherine luckily had the front seat – advantages of being polite to the ticket office staff – and 4 of us got ‘familiar’ in the beak seat. The 40mins, typical Cambodian time, took 1hr20 to arrive at Sisophon. Half way to Siem Reap in a fraction of the time as he drove like a lunatic, we were now only 57km from Poipet. But, we had to wait for the main bus to arrive first. Almost an hour later we jumped on the bus, nestled our ass in the air-conditioned seats and chugged along to the border. We got through passport control and immigration without a hitch, but we did sigh a lot at the people taking photos and videos in areas where it said not to, and people managing to get to the front of the queue after 45mins waiting, to then stand aside and fill in their immigration form that they were presented before entering the building. WTF!!??

A small bit of a wait in the car park for everyone to get back on the bus, we had now safely traversed the notorious Poipet border crossing twice without hassle. A weird moment when military got on the bus and demanded to see passports was about the only bit of drama before we stopped at a nice garage with a 7 Eleven, shops, restaurants and sparkly clean bathrooms. Oh to be back in Thailand. We got off at the railway station, a more convenient stop than Khao San Rd where we were destined. As such, we built up an appetite by walking to our hostel. Dumped the bags and enjoyed noodles, curry and salad at our usual restaurant. We tried to watch a bit of telly, but every channel was showing the same piece on the Thai King. An unusual thing to do on tv, we were unable to check what that meant with the poor wifi in the room so we turned off the lights and passed out. Thursday 13th October 2016

Battambang – day 371

We woke up early and transferred to our original hotel. We both felt much better after some sleep and as the guesthouse owner himself came to meet us at our replacement lodgings and walked us back to the guesthouse, apologising en route. Dropping our bags in the room, we rented a scooter and headed out for the day. First stop – the travel agents to buy bus tickets to Bangkok. Having learnt our lesson from Kratie, we went to four different places before making a purchase! Turns out that only 2 places sell tickets to Bangkok so we chose the cheapest! Got back onto the scooter and, I’m blaming the tiredness, I drove atrociously! So much so that Jayne told me off!!! Deciding it was going to be one of those days, I drove us straight to Gloria Jeans for a cup of coffee and a danish – or, as it turns out, a fruit smoothie, a coffee frappuchino, an almond croissant and an piece of Oreo cheesecake. Feeling more human (and less likely to kill each other), we jumped back on the bike and made our way to the bamboo train when it started raining. It rained so hard that we had to take shelter in the petrol station. The attendants brought us chairs to sit on as we watched the rain pound down, frogs frolick in the puddles and drivers swerve to dodge the water filled potholes. When the rain slowed down enough, we waved goodbye to our new friends and kept driving down the road to one of the world’s all-time unique rail journeys!The 7km bumpy train journey goes from Battambang’s old French bridge (Wat Kor Bridge) to O Sra Lav along warped, misaligned rails and vertiginous bridges left by the French. The journey takes 20 minutes each way, with a 20-minute stop at O Sra Lav in between (for the obligatory gaggle of souvenir shops!).

Each bamboo train – known in Khmer as a norry (nori) – consists of a 3m-long wooden frame, covered lengthwise with slats made of ultralight bamboo, that rest on two barbell-like bogies, the one at the rear is connected by fan belts to a 6HP gasoline engine. Pile on 10 or 15 people, or up to three tonnes of rice, crank it up and you can cruise along at about 15km/h.Sitting on straw mats that have been laid over the bamboo platform, we held onto whatever we could and the contraption quickly began to pick up speed!! Peeking down through the cracks at the rail tracks below was simply a blur and the long grass kept whipping our arms as the scenery shot past. We tried to talk to each other but we had to yell to be heard and, even then, the wind carried half our conversation away. The genius of the bamboo railway system is that it offers a brilliant solution to the most ineluctable problem faced on any single-track line: what to do when two trains going in opposite directions meet. In the case of bamboo trains, the answer is simple: one car is quickly disassembled and set on the ground beside the tracks so that the other can pass. The rule is that the car with the fewest passengers has to cede priority. We got to see this in action as the oncoming train was dismantled, removed and reassembled in front of our eyes in less than a couple of minutes. With the wind blowing in our hair, it was impossible not to smile (mainly because the speed was forcing my mouth apart) as we chugged past fields, across rickety bridges, and through stretches of bush. Locals walked on the tracks and only hopped off when the train was almost upon them. We also picked up a little girl and her mum halfway down the track. 

Arriving at the souvenir station, we did the rounds of each stall to pass the time but found the begging to buy something a little bit intense. Fortunately, by the time we got back to our train it was ready to go so we headed back to the start. Got about a minute down the track when it started raining again and we were completely soaked within 10 seconds. We were asked to tip the driver when we had finished, which always annoys me. If you ask for a tip then it is no longer a tip! One of the only times we have done it because the poor boy looked as much of a drowned rat as we did!! Jumping on our bike again before we got more demands to part with money, we had to take shelter in another petrol station as the rain made it difficult to see the road. 

Used the time to work out our route to the winery (yes, a winery!) while we waited for the rain to subside. Ended up driving down a little road where we got stuck in the mud. It was slightly tough dragging the scooter out of the mud without falling over ourselves – I ended up taking off my shoes and Jayne got covered head to toe in mud after I revved the engine at the wrong time… Emerging from the mud bath onto the main road, we spent some time declogging the tyre of mud to make it safe for us to drive again as locals watched us (and were laughing, I’m sure!). 14 kilometres out of town is Cambodia’s first and only winery, the Chan Thai Choeung (or Banan) Winery, which is open for visits and tastings. Known for its production of chilli peppers (harvested from October to January), Cambodia’s only winery grows shiraz and cabernet sauvignon grapes to make reds, and tropics-resistant Black Queen and Black Opal grapes to make rosés. Both taste completely unlike anything you’ve ever encountered in a bottle with the word ‘wine’ on the label. Putting it politely, the wine is not exactly to Western tastes – it tasted like vinegar!!! We also tasted their ‘cognac’ which isn’t as bad as the wine, and their juices — grape and ginger — are pretty good. Chatting to a French couple, who we had convinced not to try the wine, we organised to meet up with them for dinner before heading back into town. Dropped off our bike and headed up to our room to remove our slightly damp clothes! Chilled out for a while before going for a walk around the night market. A slightly odd experience as the market was a mixture between food stalls and shops selling random assortments of products, all with music blaring out and drowning out its neighbour. It was intense. The fairground section was also fun with its rides hanging halfway off the pavement or being run by fans!Met Francois and Veronica (I hope I’ve spelt their names right!) at the White Rose for dinner. It was a really nice evening, chatting about our respective travels. They had started with the Trans-Siberian railway and spent time in Mongolia – it sounds incredible and is now on my list (as is a million different other places!). We all went back to the night market for ice cream before heading back to our guesthouses. 

Wednesday 12th October 2016

Travelling – day 370

We had a 6.30am pick up from the guesthouse to take us to the bus station. Fortunately, it had stopped raining for long enough for us to make it from reception to the minibus without getting soaking wet! A rather uneventful almost 6 hour bus journey to get us from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh took us past flooded roads. We even drive past a TukTuk that was almost submerged in a ditch at the side of the road. I reckon the road was so flooded that he just drove straight off the road…

Ate a packet of crackers for breakfast, the only food items we could find in the shop last night, before stopping for ‘breakfast’. A rather disappointing stop as the food looked a. disgusting; b. like it was cooked a week ago; and c. totally overpriced. Giving it a miss, the only thing Jayne really wanted was the super cute fluffy puppy with an amputated front paw. Arriving at the bus station in Phnom Penh, we had the usual performance from the TukTuk drivers who didn’t quite seem to understand that we were staying at the bus station to transfer to another bus – although they could all regurgitate a string of Cockney rhyming slang! We even had the same driver approach us three times using exactly the same speech each time. 

Popped into the nearby supermarket to stretch our legs and buy some snacks for the next bus journey. Tried to find this elusive blueberry Fanta that we saw advertised back in Siem Reap to no avail. We tried to find somewhere to eat on the way back to the bus station but with every restaurant looking worryingly empty (eat where the locals eat after all), we decided to buy a pork sandwich from the kiosk at the station instead – it was delicious!
Back on another bus for our 7 hour journey to Battambang. Chatted to the man in front of us who lives and works in Siem Reap as a professor of agricultural. It was really interesting listening to him talk about how he trains Cambodians to double their earnings through their crops. It was slightly difficult to hear him at times over the Cambodian karaoke music blaring out. He left the bus halfway and we watched some ‘Dexter’ to pass the time. The bus did the typical ‘India’ thing of driving around the outside of the town and then dropping us a couple of kms away from everything. When we got off the bus, there were only motorbike taxis that wanted to charge us $2 each to go 3km… Neither of us wanted to get on a motorbike again after the Preah Vihear experience so we started walking. At which point, a TukTuk turned up. Since it was late and it was dark, we asked him ‘how much?’ At this point, he started with ‘free today but you take me tomorrow’. Knowing that we didn’t want to hire a TukTuk tomorrow we asked him again. Despite explaining that we didn’t want a TukTuk tomorrow but we were happy to pay a good (the right!) price tonight, he didn’t seem to notice. Decided to cut our losses and walk anyway, we then got the speech about Battambang being full of gangsters and murderers so it wasn’t safe to walk. If only he could have seen us roll our eyes in the dark…

The walk, where we weren’t raped or murdered, was easy enough and we were soon enough at our guesthouse only to find out that we had no room despite pre paying through Agoda. A slight disagreement where they wanted to put us in a male dorm room and we refused resulted in us being sent to another hotel for the night. At this point, we were more than slightly pissed off, so when the guy who showed us to our room started asking if we wanted a TukTuk tomorrow, we closed the door in his face and then blocked it with a chair. Climbing into twin beds, we fell into an uneasy sleep from the adrenaline rush. 
Tuesday 11th October 2016

Sihanoukville – day 369

Since we had an early bus, we had to get up early to pack away the clothes that we had hung up around our room last night. Most things had dried, I think – or maybe they still have some moisture in them… I’m sure we will smell delightful in a few days!! We had waited to do Jayne’s injection until we could find a safe place to dispose of the needle – fortunately, the pharmacy attached to the guesthouse had a sharps box so I was good to stab her with sharp needles!!! Managed to get everything sorted and we were ready with enough time to eat our slightly stale generic brand cornflakes with Milo chocolate milk. 
The mini bus drive to Sihanoukville was easy except for the three irritating Australians sat behind us. Even our headphones and loud music could barely drown out their ridiculous conversation and frustrating travel bragging. It was made even worse by the metre by metre run down of how close they were getting to their hostel only to then be subjected to repeats of ‘where are we going?’, ‘It’s too far away!’ and ‘Oh no, we’ll have to get a TukTuk’ for the last ten minutes of the journey as we drove further away from it. When we arrived, they even refused to get out of the minibus as we weren’t at the bus station. Had to point out that we weren’t on a BUS and that’s why we weren’t at the BUS station. We chucked our bags on our backs and walked quickly away from them and up the hill to our guesthouse. Must have been there for all of two minutes when it began raining – and it wasn’t light rain. It was full-on typhoon type rain, so relentless that with the pounding of raindrops on the roof we could barely hear each other speak! From previous experience, the rain in SE Asia usually stops after a while. However, this was clearly no usual SE Asian rain storm – it went on all afternoon! Just when we thought it was slowing down a bit, it would pick up again with incredible gusto! Even the guesthouse staff seemed surprised at how long it was lasting. Fortunately, the guesthouse has a bar, restaurant, pool table and decent wifi so we were able to entertain ourselves for the rest of the morning and early afternoon. The guesthouse manager was apologetic about the rain but, actually, it suited us fine. There isn’t much to do in Sihanoukville apart from go to the beach or get wasted. We had come so we could see the beach in Cambodia and to visit Narae’s friends vegan cafe (which was closed on Mondays) but we weren’t too disappointed that we couldn’t even get there. We are both tired and could definitely do with taking it slower than we have done in the past.A little bit of google searching and we found a cinema just opposite our guesthouse. I say a cinema but it was a place where you rented a private room full of sofas and a huge screen to watch any film from their collection. It was actually kind of amazing and makes me really tempted to turn our spare room into a cinema when we get home…We choose to watch ‘Mike and Dave need wedding dates’ and ordered a four cheese pizza too, although we declined the offer to make it a ‘happy’ pizza. 

The film was funnier than either of us expected and it was a great way to waste away a wet afternoon. 
When we left the cinema, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle so we headed to the beach to have a look. The people stood outside each restaurant and bar trying to entice people in as they walked past with special food or drink offers seemed more in keeping with Magaluf than with Cambodia but I guess it is known for being a bit of a party place in the high season. 

Back to the guesthouse for a couple of games of pool – Jayne beat me both times. In fact, on the first game, she had managed to pot all her balls and the black before I even got a chance to pot one of mine! An episode of ‘Quantico’ before snuggling down in our bed with comfy mattresses – it must be a southern Cambodia thing. 
Monday 10th October 2016