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
The sound of the air con unit was muffled by the sound of the rain outside. We had no choice but to get up at early o’clock. So with a bit of tea, bread and jam we waited patiently under the tree at the main gate with the miserable weather for the bus to arrive. 20mins later than planned we were relieved that it turned up at all… how long does one wait for a tour bus, when they weren’t sure of the address when making the booking? Needn’t have worried, eeek! 3km down the road we pulled in to an elaborate building to buy our Angkor tickets. A well organised system we queued up in the line for 7-day passes. They took photos, printed our passes and we jumped back in the mini-van.
The outside of the ticket is rimmed with numbers 1 to 31. Much like an old-fashioned Irish parking ticket where you punch in the date and time, the officers at the check point punched a hole through number 21. We were allowed to enter the historical area. But, we skimmed through the jungle, past sandstone walls topped with decorative stonework and occasionally drove past a gateway with amazing work atop the archway. A quick stop at the bathroom and we were then at the Flight of the Gibbon.
We all had the usual paperwork to fill out and we were given a bandana to wear. As well as being a souvenir, it’s for hygiene under the helmets. A clever idea, but they weren’t very comfortable or fashionable. Who cares, harnesses on, safety demo in the woods and we plodded up the stairs to our first platform.
We traversed 21 stations, crossing bridges, zipping across 10 lines and rappelling down to the jungle floor. We went up into trees almost 500 years old, getting a birds eye view of the landscape from 40m up. The Kulen mountains in the distance is the where all the stone came from for the various structures hidden in the jungle below. It, apparently, arrived by elephants on zip lines. Hahaha! The whole experience ended so quickly and was both a rush of adrenaline and completely serene and beautiful. Although near Ta Nei temple, we never saw it. We saw some of the same structures on the way to Srah Srang pool for a bit of lunch. A really nice set lunch included in the price of our zip-lining, the price should have included at least one drink, as they were an extortionate price. We shared loads of stories among the group and parted ways when we were the first to be dropped off.
Back at the hotel we had a nap. Quite a long nap. Not sure if the amount of exercise, heat and humidity warranted it, but meh, who cared. We finally woke up and walked in to town. With no time constraints or deadlines we wandered for a time in the night market stalls. Katherine found a nice new set of trousers for a bargain – although having to haggle again is a right pain in the ass. Back at the hotel we watched some Modern Family and chilled out for the remainder of the evening.
Wednesday 21st September 2016