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!

Byron Bay & travelling – day 296

Woke up early in our dorm, delighted to find it was still just the two of us (or someone had come and left in the middle of the night without us knowing!!). Got dressed and checked out, putting our bags into a storage locker and having breakfast before heading out for the day. Byron Bay has a reputation of being a famous beach town and it was lovely, but not entirely sure what the fuss is about. I could have happily lived there as a local but, for us, a day as a tourist was plenty! The beaches are great but we’ve already seen spectacular beaches along this coast (and are due to see even better ones shortly!!). The vibe in the town is very surf culture meets hippie, resulting in lots of barefooted people padding around the streets and supermarkets. That being said, it was lovely – possibly because it wasn’t as crowded as it could be – and we had a great time wandering through the back streets on our way to the Cape Byron State Conservation Park. We started on the Cape Byron walking track and, before too long, we were treated to views of dolphins swimming adjacent to the morning kayak group (lucky bastards!). You can see how close they got…IMG_1956IMG_1967We continued along the path, encountering brush turkeys along the way and stopping off at various view points to admire the spectacular views and watch the migrating whales pass by… That’s right – we have now seen humpback whales for five days in a row. Jayne is beside herself and I think, now more than ever, I have a real chance of convincing her to move here!! The walking path hugs the headland as it dips and soars towards the lighthouse. We managed to spot some more whales passing at the most easterly point of Australia.IMG_1983IMG_2545We stayed for ages at the lighthouse, admiring the view and being wowed by the passing marine life. So much so that any plans of renting a surf board before our coach this afternoon went out the window as the time flew by as we sat and enjoyed. IMG_2547IMG_2550IMG_2000IMG_2012IMG_2016Walking back down towards the town, the path went through beautiful forests and it felt like we were the only people there for miles. Descended upon the beach and decided that, even though we couldn’t go surfing, didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun in the water so we jumped in!! Swimming in the ocean in the middle of winter in Australia is a lot more agreeable than doing the same thing back in the UK or Ireland!! Back at the hostel for a shower and a late lunch before catching our coach to Brisbane. Three hours later, we were walking through the streets to the YHA. I sorted out laundry whilst Jayne went to Dominos to get us something for dinner. Sat on the roof top terrace, enjoying the eye-popping views of the city before going to bed.

Friday 29th July 2016

Shepparton – day 274

Today’s the day!!! We’re picking up Jayne from the airport!!! Almost worth getting up at 5.30am… Almost! Lols. Tracked her flight details to see she was about thirty minutes behind schedule so had a coffee at home before jumping in the car to begin the 200km journey down to the airport. Slightly eerie driving down the country road dual carriageways in the semi-darkness, well aware that this is the time of day when kangaroos often get hit by cars. Tracey, obviously, did a sterling job and we breezed down the route. Stopped for a toilet and coffee stop mid way, purchasing a couple of Australian favourites – golden rough and mint patty. The golden rough was almost like a fancy flat disk of Toblerone, whilst the mint patty was similar to a large after dinner chocolate mint. Tracey was bitterly disappointed by how they tasted – not like they did when she was a kid! Gave us both an energy boost as we pulled into the airport car park, looking up and down the aisles for the green lights to show there was a space (although, there was a few green lights but no spaces!!). My chin started wobbling as we walked towards the terminal building and stood in the middle of the concourse watching the TV screens to see her come out. Absolutely loads of schools picking up exchange students from Asian countries and a huge group of students congregating by the University of Melbourne sign. After about 40 minutes of waiting, she came through the door and Tracey held up her huge ‘sexypants’ sign as I gave her a huge kiss and hug!! Took her to the car and went to a nearby McDonalds for breakfast as we were all hungry. All full of burgers, hash browns and milkshakes, Jayne gave us too much chocolate from England and a pot of Branston pickle for Tracey (we will make her like it!!!). Got back in the car, driving back and catching up while Jayne became more and more exhausted during the journey. Saw kangaroos everywhere en route and a quick drive by the antique store to see if the huge ones I had seen where still hanging around (they weren’t) and we were back at the house. Even before we had got inside, Jayne spotted a huntsman spider. There was no way that either Tracey or I were going to kill it so Jayne rose to the challenge. A lighter and some bug spray meant that Jayne napalmed the big bastard whilst the two ‘ninjas’ hid behind the screen door just in case it started moving. Fully crispy, Tracey told Jayne she couldn’t put it in the bin and made her throw it in the drain down the street!! After her heroic spider massacre, Jayne had a bath and got into her new fleecy pyjamas that were in her welcome pack and, whilst Tracey popped out to do some errands, we sat on the sofa to watch a film. Five minutes later, Jayne was asleep and I watched the rest of the film on my own. Tracey came home and I put Jayne to bed so we could chat and watch TV without having to be too quiet. Tried waking Jayne up for dinner but she wasn’t having any of it! So left her to sleep whilst Tracey and I had spaghetti bolognaise whilst watching episodes of ‘Modern Family’. Jayne woke up around 8pm so had dinner before opening our present from Tracey – she has made our blog so far into a set of four bound books… They are beautiful.Thursday 7th July 2016

Shepparton – day 273 (K)

Woke up feeling incredibly groggy and fuzzy headed. Thankfully, a cup of coffee and a hot crumpet with blueberry jam made me feel a hundred times better. A quick shower before giving the house a quick clean and washed some clothes before sitting down to watch some TV. Got a couple of emails saying that the accommodation we wanted to book in central Australia wasn’t available on the dates we wanted so I spent some time looking for alternatives. Once everything was sorted, I put on a film (Yours, Mine & Ours) and tracked Jayne’s plane online. Everything seemed to be okay with her flight so I started making her welcome sign for when we collect her at the airport tomorrow. Tracey came home and we went out to get her parents car, as it will be more comfortable to drive to the 400km round trip to the airport. Back at the house for some tacos and a couple of episodes of Modern Family before going to bed. Super excited to see Jayne in the morning – been weird being without her for the past three weeks and can’t believe we’ve got some more adventures coming up in the not too distant future.Wednesday 6th July 2016

Shepparton – day 269 (K)

A chilled out morning whilst Tracey was working her second job at the florists. Had a massive craving for beans on toast so I made some for breakfast whilst I pottered around the house, killing time until Tracey got home at midday.
Had some lunch, got dressed in Magpie colours before getting in the car and driving an hour to Seymour which has a more regular train service to Melbourne. On our way, we drove past the famous stumps. Dressed by a couple of local people, the tree stumps get a change of outfit based on the time of year – bunny outfits at Easter, Santa costumes at Christmas etc. Today, they were dressed up in football outfits. Very random but, apparently, really famous to the area.
Arrived in Seymour, parked the car and caught the train to Melbourne, looking out the window for kangaroos the entire way! Saw absolutely loads of them even if they were significantly smaller than the ones we had seen in the field a couple of weeks ago. A really quick hour and a half later and we pulled into Southern Cross station. Decided to make our lives easier and have dinner in the train station so after checking the train times to get us to Melbourne Cricket Ground, we found a pub and ordered some food. Turns out that we had completely over ordered and stuffed ourselves with far too much yellow food… I even had to keep the skewer in my burger as it was too big to keep it together with just my hands! Took the city train circle line four stops to get to the stadium. After walking all the way around to our gate, we had our page checked and found our seats. Tracey wasn’t too pleased as we seemed to be surrounded by the fans of the opposing team whereas I was just excited to be at an AFL game! Knowing full well that I was completely oblivious to what was going on, my plan was to just clap when Tracey did. However, clearly got over excited cause I began clapping straight away. Tracey prodded me sharply in the side and said ‘stop clapping – we are the other colours’ to which I replied ‘the yellow team?’… Turns out they were the referees!! The game was, apparently, not very good with both teams being equally good (or equally rubbish) and the scores were relatively low. On the plus side, the lack of ‘real’ action gave me ample opportunity to ask loads of questions. Got into the game and began cheering for the correct team!! Although when one of the players made a bad kick in the fourth quarter, I shouted ‘you dipshit’ which came out incredibly posh and made all the supporters around us laugh out loud. Fortunately, Collingwood won so we were both cheerful as we made our way back towards the train station that was incredibly busy. A fast train back to central station and we caught the train back to Seymour. An easy train journey and car drive back to Shepparton before falling into bed at 1.30am… 3 days to go.Saturday 2nd July 2016

Shepparton – day 268 (K)

Woke up and chatted to Jayne for one of the last times before she heads off to Kerry for a few days and goes ‘off-grid’. Ate breakfast whilst watching early morning television as I waited for Ashleigh to wake up so I could start make proper noise. When she emerged from her room, we spent a busy morning changing and washing bedsheets, sweeping and hoovering the floors before washing the floors in the house. So much so that I actually broke Tracey’s vacuum cleaner… Oops! Fortunately, it was the last bit of cleaning so Ash and I packed it away in the cupboard, swept up the last bit of dust and kept our fingers crossed that neither of us were going to get shouted at. Obviously, as the proper adult, I took full responsibility for breaking it! I even offered to replace it but that was laughed at. Ash had a date with a friend for lunch so I ate left overs from the other night whilst watching reruns of ‘Friends’, including a couple of sneaky TimTams. The next couple of hours was spent on the phone and internet, booking accommodation, renting cars and finalising coach tickets. Much more successful than I have been all week – I have got everything sorted for Jayne and me up until 21st July with tentative plans in place to get us all the way to Cairns by mid August. Spent time researching how we could visit the Whitsundays and Fraser Islands without breaking the bank, as I know it’s definitely something we will both want to do! Tracey came home from work and we headed straight out to the nearby supermarket to buy some food groceries. At 34 years old, I felt like a teenager walking around the shop with Tracey, putting junk items and drinks full of E numbers into the trolley – I had completely reverted back to my 15-year old self!! Jayne is going to be treated to some fabulous stuff when she finally gets here (if we haven’t consumed it first!!). Back at home and groceries packed away, Tracey made us a couple of Pinã Colada’s to enjoy while we waited for our Dominos pizza! Had a Hugh Grant feast by watching ‘Notting Hill’ followed by ‘Two Weeks Notice’ whilst eating far too much pizza and drinking far too much rum!! 4 days to go.

Friday 1st July 2016

Shepparton – day 266 (K)

It was clearly going to be one of those days the moment I woke up. Having chatted to Jayne, showered and dressed, I went into the kitchen to make breakfast where I proceeded to drop every single thing I picked up, making huge amounts of noise and generally creating a mess! Managed to eat my muesli without choking and drank my coffee without scolding myself… An achievement in itself based on the trail of destruction that I left in the kitchen! Sat at my desk (the dinning room table that I have taken over with my map and extensive post-it notes) and started to work through the list of jobs, booking accommodation and coach travel. Until HSBC decided to block my card (again) after the first purchase. Cue the rest of the morning on the phone trying to reassure them that I was actually trying to spend my own money and unblock my card. I wouldn’t mind (nice to know that my money is safe, perhaps slightly too safe) but there is a note on my account that shows that we are travelling and that we will be in Australia at this time of year. Even the guy on the other end of the phone was embarrassed and apologised as he read the note on my file. Couldn’t use my card for the rest of the day as, due to the time difference, the department that could unblock it wasn’t open yet! So, I headed into town and helped Ashleigh with some of her errands, booking myself in for a haircut tomorrow and eyeing up some jeans to replace my ones that are now massively too big (not that I am complaining but they are my favourite FatFace jeans!). Popped into Coles to buy some ingredients for dinner tonight and got started cooking when we got home. However, totally forgot that I lack any sort of culinary ability and, based on my day, I should have ordered us take away!! An hour in the oven and neither the potato gratin or the chicken thighs were cooked as the green beans and carrots were slowly beginning to disintegrate on the hob… Thank goodness for wine! Fortunately, dinner wasn’t too much of a disaster and, as we settled down to watch some Modern Family, I told Tracey all about my day. Then I got a text from HSBC fraud department asking me to call them… Another half an hour on the phone sorting out my card, placing another travelling marker on it, with the reassurance that I’ll be able to use it tomorrow – fingers crossed! Tracey’s aunt had made some sweet bread for us which was amazing and well appreciated after today.Flopped into bed, talked to Jayne and am glad that this day is over. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. 6 days to go.

Wednesday 29th June 2016

Shepparton – day 265 (K)

Now that my travel scholarship competition entry is finished and entered, I’m back to the job of planning our trip around Australia. Expecting my credit card to get a serious bashing today was thwarted by my first successful job… After spending time looking at all the places we want to travel in the East coast and Central Australia, it was clear that YHA hostels were everywhere we wanted to go! With the option of members being able to get 10% of all accommodation and buy prepaid accommodation cards too, meaning we could get a bed for $23 each per night (even in Sydney!), I ordered membership cards for all three of us to the hostel chain – $25 ASD each. However, the membership numbers didn’t come through so I can’t order anything else or even book our coach tickets (since we get a discount on those too with our cards!). Had to email the company to ask them for our membership numbers and then waited… And waited… And waited… Filled my time with finalising planning and researching, car rentals, different day trips to the Whitsundays and Fraser Island as well as looking for the best place to do some scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef – we are going to be practically destitute at the end of this trip!!! I even looked up some sky diving but I really think HSBC might have a heart attack…
Was just about to head out to the nearby supermarket to get some ingredients to make dinner when Ashleigh came home, saving me the walk and driving me to Coles instead. Made my famous halloumi pasta with garlic bread for dinner and watched some TV before bed. 7 days to go.Tuesday 28th June 2016

Shepparton – day 263 (K)

An early-ish start to a Sunday morning as we were helping out at an event being held at Latrobe University. Having seen an advert that McDonalds in Australia were now doing all-day breakfasts, Tracey and I had had a conversation last night (around the fifth glass of wine) about going there for breakfast! So, got showered and dressed before putting the fruit in the car (was being donated from Tracey’s work to the forum), jumping in the car and heading down the road. Another moment stood in front of the menu, gazing in awe at all the burgers that we don’t get back in the UK – must have taken me about five minutes to drool over the menu before deciding what to get. Was sorely tempted by a frozen Coke but since it’s winter here and a little too chilly for a frozen drink (and, bizarrely, I’m loving feeling the cold after months of heat and humidity!). After filling up on greasy goodness, we headed over to the university and unloaded the car. Caught up with Charles (a friend of Tracey’s from Rotary) who was organising the African Youth Forum. The forum was organised to hear and learn from young people about the issues of greater concerns to them. There was a range of professionals discussing issues ranging from education and training, apprenticeship, mental health, mentoring and domestic violence against women and girls. We were in charge of registering people who were attending the event. Notice how organised the leaflets are?!? That was my job…
I was also in charge of setting out the refreshments… I guess my OCD ways haven’t diminished at all during our months of travelling – In fact, they may have gotten worse!!The morning passed pretty quickly as we chatted to the Mayor and some of the political candidates who had come to do a quick campaign speech at the start of the forum. Chatted loads with Tracey as people trickled in, lots of them coming directly from church, whilst we sneaked peeks at various rooms and notice boards in the university – is a much nicer university than the ones I went to in England… Made me want to be a student again!Popped into the supermarket on the way home to grab some lunch and annoy Ashleigh on the deli counter, who was back at work today. Resisted the urge to go on a massive shopping spree in the stationary shop, choosing the steal the chocolate muffin from Ashleigh hot chocolate meal deal instead…
Headed back to the house to watch some TV and have a relaxing afternoon before Tracey goes back to work tomorrow (having worked all weekend too!). Got introduced to the show ‘Orange is the New Black’ which was good, although tough when you start in season six. I had to keep asking what was going on! Met up with Tracey’s parents who, very kindly, took us out for a Thai meal at a nearby restaurant. My medium hot curry had quite a kick to it and I felt substantially stuffed as we left. Also said ‘thank you’ in Thai to the waitress who looked at me as if I was insane!! Semi-finals of ‘House Rules’ rounded off a great evening! 9 days to go.

Sunday 26th June 2016

Shepparton- day 261 (K)

My morning routine has now become a routine! Which is a strange thing to admit since I’ve not had a set routine for over nine months whilst we have been travelling – just get up and go with the flow!! A week in Australia and I already have a routine… Wake up, Skype Jayne, shower, make coffee and muesli and watch the news. It may not seem particularly interesting but it’s strangely reassuring to have a set routine when I wake up.Having finished my breakfast and caught up on foreign affairs, including the shocking result from the EU referendum, before giving the house a quick clean (got to earn my keep, after all!!!). Got started on the job of removing the sticky tape off the door of Ashleigh’s bedroom, which we had all been picking at gradually over time. 2 hours later and a huge amount of elbow grease, the door was perfectly clean and sticky free!The rest of the afternoon was spent completing, revising and editing my travel scholarship application form for World Nomads and Lonely Planet. The prize? A three day writing workshop in Melbourne and an all expenses paid 10-day road trip around Australia. It has also got me motivated to start applying for any travel competition I can find, so I started googling – there are so many!! Need to restrain myself, or Jayne and I won’t have any plans or reservations for our trip around Australia… Ashleigh is coming home from Melbourne university tonight for a week so I cleaned her room and moved my stuff into the spare room as Tracey is bringing a blow up mattress home. Headed out to the fish and chip shop to get some dinner for all of us – I ordered anything on the menu that I had no idea what it was or something that we can’t get in England. Potato cake burger was a winner, the chicken garlic ball as a chicken kiev and the pineapple fritter with cinnamon sugar was divine!! Ate whilst watching the AFL game between Collingwood and Fremantle.As Collingwood is the team that Tracey supports and my first AFL game, it was great that they won and is the first time that Collingwood has beaten Fremantle since 2012!! We talked about going to see a live game but there are no games being played locally when Jayne gets here – might have to see one without her… 11 days to go!!

Friday 24th June 2016