Tomorrow I am off to Vietnam, apparently the internet connections are faster and the food is better, but I have enjoyed my stay around here. I’ll come back and have a better look around, but for now I’m motoring.
The thing about the Baphuon is that it was built on sandy soil that couldn’t fully support the weight of it’s construction, so it was in a pretty poor state when it was found. A french archaeologist overseeing the monuments decided that the best thing for the Baphuon was for it to be taken apart, labelled up and put back together again with a better core that could support it’s weight. When the Khmer Rouge came to power they kindly burned the plans leaving no record of what stone went where, so it ended up being one of the most fascinating jigsaw puzzles in the world. To add to the puzzle the Cambodians, upon getting busy with Buddha decided to use some of the Temple to build a giant reclining Buddha on the side, so a part of the temple was missing. You get the idea, parts had to be built from scratch and even now people are chip chipping away at fresh stone to make bits and pieces to finish the thing off. When we got to stand on the top of the Baphuon we were about as high as you can get in Angkor.
After the Baphuon we visited a temple where the trees have grown around the stones like giant hands are holding onto them, they look almost human, we then stopped off at the kings bathing lake, which is huge. I’d like a bathing lake too now but will have to stick with Tooting Bec lido which is not a bad size either (100 yards long).
For the evening there was the end of the Photo Competition at the FCC hotel in Siem Reap. For the last week there has been a competition going on that has drawn interest from all around the world, the winner (Chicken Shack) was a very graphic set of pictures from an abattoir showing chickens in different states of being slaughtered. There weren’t too many cheerful pictures being shown, but the competition is good for Siem Reap.
Yesterday We headed up to Phnom Penh for a boat trip with a bunch of expats. I love expat communities, they are often full of fascinating people who tend to get by day to day by drinking heavily and laughing as much as they can because if you don’t it’s all too easy to get sucked into the mess of the country you happen to find yourself in, and it’s one messy world. On this trip I met a farmer that was farming a few hundred thousand hectares of rice paddy using western organic farming methods, artists, charity workers, a film maker, sculptress and the list goes on. Everyone drank the bar dry of beer and good fun was had by all. I was tucked into a tuc tuc in the early hours and provided with a comfy mattress on a tiled floor, I somehow managed to end up crawling to the big womb like sofa a few metres away and slept like a baby – makes note, beer helps you get over your jet lag.
I have now left the wonderful company of Sasha, who has been showing me around Siem reap, Sasha is a friend of old that has been given the task of being Honorary British Consul in Siem Reap, a testing task sometimes as she is asked at all hours of the night to help out travellers in distress. She also happens to be a very talented sculpture that has been working with local kids making works out of decommissioned weapons. Everybody tells me that she has become quite a celebrity around town, but she is very self deprecating in that endearing way that only us English can be, so she down plays the whole thing. She has been a wonderful hostess for the week and has made my stay a pleasure, so thanks Sash, I’ll be back to visit your new house as soon as I can.
So today I am off to find someone to sort my Vietnamese visa out for me, then I’ll get off to Vietnam.
These are what they put on the bed when they have made it in the morning, one each for my girls x
Another thing that left an impression on me was his working methods. Andy has a space where his guides can research, have time to themselves, to relax before getting back to what are often stressful lives. I got the impression that this would lead to them feeling like they belong to something a little more profound than just a way to pay the bills, which in turn would foster leadership skills, self reliance, business acumen, the things we take for granted back home where time to think is taken for granted. To have something like shared with me adds a wonderful dimension to what has been a great week here.
So, Angkorland had a nice pool, a great breakfast with more fruit than you could shake a stick at but it did lack that little something, so I went surfing and came up with the little gem I am staying in right now.
The tour de force though has to be a little cacoon style bamboo chair that overlooks the greenery fringed pool. I feel like I have come home – I felt drained when I came to Siem Reap, now I am full of beans in a boutique hotel that is massaging my soul.
If I forgot the price they are charging me $49 for the room I am in but I will probably move to a $22 room tomorrow because too much luxury disturbs my socialist principles – or that I have to get disciplined and reduce the spend on rooms so that I can raise the spend on Cambodian food. Whatever, I’m enjoying it while I can.
So today I had another dip into Angkor but without really diving in, I think I’ll save that for later in the week when I’ll make a sunrise til sunset tour, but for now I’m happy just skirting about the edges. I still haven’t figured out why the place was deserted, but I’m still looking – the picture below is a picture from the top of Phnom Bakhreng, you might be able to see a lake in the distance, that lake apparently grows in size by a multitude of three in the rainy season. Apparently fish like this as it means loads of goodies in the water, so that body of water is the best in the world for its fish yield. Can you believe that I was pondering that at sunset from the top of Phnom Bakhreng, I’m turning into a nerd for gods sakes.
Upon getting back into town I get a facebook message from an old buddy that lives in Siem Reap. She is the ‘Honorary British Consul’ which is as cool as it gets, she is the one that deals with James Bond when he comes to town – hey, that’s me right now I guess, but Sasha and I have managed to bypass each other since I’ve been here so apparently she asked every honky in town to grab any bloke with an excess of curly barnet and point them in her direction. We managed to meet up at the Siem Reap photographic exhibition at the FCC centre by the river.
Now the FCC centre is cool. I mean Siem Reap is a mass of contradictions, but walking into the FCC centre is like walking into a party on a yacht – well dressed people, chic – no sweatiness at all, perhaps a little Paris Super Cool Culture pervading this little bit of Indochine. I recommend this place just to relax and take a deep deep breath.
Anyhow I retired early due to the fact that I have work to do. I have a 512k connection in my hotel room, the National Geographic channel is on in the background with some programme about people that survived horrendous accidents and the swimming pool outside is illuminated with underwater lights, the chitter chatter of some French people keeps the insects from having a monopoly around the poolside. I feel better.
I hire a bicycle for around Â£1.00 a day and peddle out to Angkor Wat. I take a road that bypasses the ticket office so have to go back to get my $20.00 single day entry – this allows me to go in for sunset and back again the next day. You can get cheaper deals over a number of days which I would recomend as Angkor is immense.
The first point of entry is Angkor Wat itself. This seems to be only one small part of the main site although it has given it’s name to the whole. What can I say, it’s impressive and rather puzzling, I mean I have visited other deserted cities like Fatehpur Sikri in India, but that place has a well documented reason for the people deserting it – they didn’t like the water, now that’s a perfectly sane reason for leaving your city to the rodents. But this place has no explanation, people think that the Khmers may have ‘overextended themselves’, but how does that mean everyone buggering off to let the jungle reclaim the place.
I’ll try and find out….
The train sat sin engine until around five minutes before we left when it banged into the carriages awakening all of the early morning pasasengers already on the train. The driver then sauntered up like he was in a cowboy movie and fag in mouth, hopped onto his trusty and rather noisy diesel locomotive.
I sat at the front with the monks until a conductor came up and popped a rope across that said ‘this section for Monks and disabled people’ so I moved a carriage back, to find that the seats were more airline style reclining things that lookd like they had been fabricated out of cereal packets. They were comfy though so I settled back and watched the world go by.
Bangkok trundled past for an age as we travelled beside the spanking new skytrain line all the way to near the airport. Work seems to have halted up on that so I think It’ll be a while before you can zip into town on a modern machine. We parted company at the airport and clattered across country, the wonderful scenery sliding past with paddy field upon paddy field and the cranes and farmers working the fields in the heat of the morning sun.
At Aranyaprathet, the end of the railway for now, I was asked by a friendly Tuk Tuk driver if he should take me to the boarder. I accepted and he took me to the Cambodian consulate which is a km or so from the border, my visa took me 3 minutes for 1000 Baht, which is a little over the 20$ quoted on the visa itself, but who cares if they are that efficient, now in Africa half your time is spent bribing officials at borders but that’s another story.
It was after the border that I came a little unsstuck. On passing through the border (not a very complicated business at all) I came to the roundabout straight after where the taxi’s were lined up. For some reason only my brain can figure out when asked directly, I decided that I was going to do to the bus station with a wily little bike feller who talked me into taking a cab all to myself – only $20 after all and I’d have the taxi to myself. Well why not – that is until 5 minutes later when 4 extremely smelly farm labourers hopped in. Now I’m not averse to a spot of body odour and can’t be called fussy, but this four had the smell of a months worth of hard work, not bathing along with the smell of layers of skin swetted garlic. They looked lovely though – the poor girl amongst them obviously mothering the other four whilst on a working stint in Thailand (just coming home) so I didn’t mind paying for the taxi to Siem Reap.
It didn’t end there though. After being told that we’d go direct we took a long detour to get a new set of tyres, the driver then tried to squeeze another large bloke in WITH HIM ON THE FRONT SEAT. At this point I got out and told him in no uncertain terms that if the bloke didn’t sod off I’d hitch. Luckily he sodded off or I’d probably still be there.
And now I am in Siem Reap, a stones throw from the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat – and luckily I have found a net shop with reasonable internet access, because the internet in the hotel was so slow that it was hard to open gmail up in.
For those cyber gypsies reading this I am in ‘The Internet Cafe’ (sassy name huh) just up the road from the Happy Guesthouse where you can get a 512k line, other than that the internet seems pretty slow around abouts these parts,
tomorrow I’m off to the ruins on a bicycle, for now I’m going to find out what Cambodia food is like – and try and catch the spurs game if that’s humanly possible here.
I called the card company on skype – they told me that they had nicely cancelled my cards due to the fact that they were being used in a third world country. Well what in gods name do they expect me to do in Thailand, send them back by jet to get a few quid out of the cash machine at Heathrow.
So, after sorting that out I’m still at the Atlanta hotel and have had to endure another day of lounging by the pool and tucking into Pad Kaprow. Life’s a bitch.
I’m going tomorrow morning.
Go to the end of the Skytrain at Saphan Thaksin, nip on a boat and pay 40p for a trip up river. You get to see Bangkok from the water. It’s a working waterway with people commuting up and down river on a thriving network of Boats, it would be great to see people in London doing the same, nipping up river from Richmond on fast river boats to add that little bit of spice to an ordinary urban day, but that’s long gone – having said that you can use an oyster card on Thames riverboats now so maybe there will be a rennaissance, but I’m digressing here, let’s stick to S.E.Asia.
Tomorrow I am heading up to Cambodia on the 5.55 train, so I am up at 4 to get to the station in time – it’s a 3rd class train that some kind Thai in the hotel said I’d be sharing with chickens and goats, beats the underground in rush hour I say. Huzzah!
I sat this morning in McDonalds drinking a coke looking at one of the busy bridges that roll over the busy Sukhmvit road. Now any respectable ‘traveller’ would avoid McDonalds like the plague, but of the many things I have been called respectable isn’t one of them, so I doused my dry mouth that comes from a night of drinking Singha beer with the only thing that will reinstate moisture. A coke from McDonalds.
So, in McDonalds I watched listened to that sacharin Thai love music that always has the most cringeworthy chord progressions and pondered the effect of our races coming together. Now I am aware of the paradox here, but then again travel to me is a chess game of paradox. I read a brief history of time whilst on a river boat cruising up the amazon, but that is paradoxically subtle, resonant as David Byrne once said.
The Thais are a wonderful race. I don’t mean that in a mealy mouthed post colonial way, I mean that in a way that is perhaps a little jealous of the phase they are going through. They believe that progress will bring them many things, not least the things they think they have and manage to completely ignore the parade of maladjusted westerners that are drawn to Thailand like iron filings to a magnet. They believe in love, many of the girls that hang onto the arms of us lost in our malaise actually believe they are in love, so who are we to point out the future to them. The lover feels love, the abuser abuse, it’s an age old theme that is only a part of the thing called kharma, best we are on the right side of that old chestnut.
The Atlanta has the oldest swimming pool in Thailand apparently and from the age of the palm trees surrounding it I can believe it. The entrance hall is original and fourties music pipes through the ground floor to add to that golden age of travel feeling.
The most amazing thing about this hotel is the no hanky panky policy. In large letters over the front door they state that if you are after the seedier side of Bangkok life then you are in the wrong place, so at the desk on the arrival they gently probe you (wrong choice of phrase perhaps, no probing allowed here) as to what you are up to.
The wrong answer would be ‘send three girls to my room and I’ll tell you later’.
The most magical thing about this place has to be it’s swimming pool. I leaped in as soon as I arrived from the airport to bring my core temperature down (the contrast from London was so great my thermostat was nearing breaking point).
The rooms aren’t great, but this isn’t the hilton and it only costs a tenner with aircon, so it’s a lot cheaper than renting a garage in London should you extend your stay to forever.
Even though there is no hanky panky they do sell beer. I’m going to go and get one.
If the romance of travel is to be extuinguished then Terminal 4 Heathrow is the extinguisher to do it with, but my imagination is strong enough to paint it with glamorous hostesses, the smell of aviation fuel and all of that malarkey. If there are any glamorous hostesses to be found here they are having a fag in the depressing smoking zone outside, where terminal staff huddle in the cold like lab animals waiting to be experimented on – bring back the appreciation of travel I say, perhaps even pop propellers back onto aircraft.
I did have a few whistful moments today as I left the house today. It was one one of those autumn days lit up by a cold sun, I like those, they slap you in the face and say ‘be alive you sleepy sod there’s a world out there’. It’ll also be six weeks until I see my other half, but as we are going to meet in Sydney we have something to look forward to, so my whistful moments were moments and now I look forward to hob nobbing it around South East Asia looking for WiFi connections so that I can work as I play.
On another note entirely I heard that pirates had nicked a super tanker today. Now call me old fashioned but if terminal 4 is peeing on the joy of travel then surely that enhances it – there are still pirates be jaysus. Avast me hearties, sail on until you run out of fuel, or the pool table on the ship plugs up with coins and sends you, bored, sailing back to your pirate havens.
On the subject of pirate havens – I once visited a pirate haven off of the coast of Thailand, it was an island, naturally hollowed out, so that the only way in was to swim, underwater, through a cave into the central lagoon.
Pirates know how to pick a spot.
It’s getting cold here in the UK so it’s time to pick up my laptop and head south. Qantas seem to be wanting to give tickets away at the moment so I picked up a four flight deal for just over a grand, Heathrow Bangkok, Hong Kong – Sydney, Perth – Singapore and then Singapore – London with a break in Tioman for some diving and Penang for a good curry.
I obviously have to make up the bits in between so I’ll be travelling overland from Bangkok to Hong kong and from Sydney to Perth. On top of this I have to co-ordinate work while I am away, but in this day and age that’ll be a doddle right?
Leaving things until the last minute as usual I have been sorting out things like visas this week. China and Vietnam need you to have a visa before considering entry into the country so my passport is at the Chinese Embassy right now. I can pick up a vietnamese visa in Camobodia, apparently without the hassles of getting it in London. The Australian visa was a a simple case of applying online – Thailand will simply give me a visa at the airport which is nice of them. Sorted.
This leaves the gear I will have to take with me to help me work and play on the road for three months.
I do enjoy this bit in a nerdy kind of way, as a kid I would collect camping gear to escape into the wild, even going so far as to shoplift kit from the local camping shops. So this isn’t drudgery to me. In fact this whole Cyber Gypsy thing is just an extension of that, carrying my whole universe around with me so that I can even run my business while I am away. It does take a little thought to be able to travel light though –
One of my First buys was a Jungle Hammock from a very nice fellow called Tom Claytor who just happens to be flying around the world in a light aircraft at the moment. I guess he is another kind of Cyber Gypsy. I like the idea of a jungle hammock because it makes me totally sefl sufficient for a place to spend the night – mosquito free. It has a rain cover and a mosquito net and can even be used as a kind of netted bivouac if needs be – all for a fraction of the weight of a tent. Done.
I didn’t get the camouflaged one.
For a rucksack I needed something with a laptop pocket that could take up to 40 litres but also get on a plane as hand luggage. After looking around the London camping shops I came up with the North Face Overhaul 40 a bag that can be expanded to a tardis like degree.
For mobile communication I changed mobile providers to ‘Three‘ and picked up a schpanking new Nokia E71. Now this was a canny move as ‘Three’ have networks in two of the countries I will be visiting (Hong Kong and Oz) meaning I can use my phone as I would at home with unlimited internet access and minutes. It also has a huge memory for all my MP3’s and an FM radio so it means that I don’t have to bother with any kind of MP3 player. Sorted.
Next was a camera that would take great pics but not take up too much real estate. I could have gotten hold of a nice Nikon but opted for a point and shoot with an 18x zoom lense – in my experience having a good analogue zoom is the killer point for a camera when you travel as it means you don’t have to get into peoples faces to take nice pictures, the Panasonic DMC-FZ28 seems to do it all. My onle issue with it is the battery life, but I’ll pick up a few spare batteries in Hong Kong while I am there which will sort that out.
Pop a super teeny weeny Storm Shield S660-D Sleeping bag (not made anymore I think) that has pure down in it meaning it will pack up small enough to fit into a sock and that’s it.
I’m not going to go down to the suntan lotion level of detail, so assume I’ll pack some swimming trunks and a pair of sunglasses.
I have six days to ponder the finer points of packing a bag and that’s it – my next post will be about some of the things I do to make sure I can still run my business even if my laptop is stolen.
Technorati Tags: travel
I went to Heathrow recently as my ex was getting back from seeing her family in Peru. I decided to stop off at Terminal 5 to see what all of the fuss was about and was amazed. The building is lovely. It is a cathedral that pays homage to travel, huge halls, grand scale and sheers walls all looking like they pivot on giant metal bearings.
I sat at the runway end of the terminal, in a cafe and watched one of the new Airbus 380’s take off and could only sit in wonder. For those who want to do nothing but complain about some of the wonderous things we humans make, shut the fcuk up.
Technorati Tags: travel
I managed to get most of my daily chores out of the way as the rain pours down outside the Paris flat. I post to a few message boards about SEO and web design issues, and I am trying to get into the rythm of updating this blog daily. So here we are.
My train home is at 14.43 from the Gare De Nord so I want to get some work done before I go. I have an ecommerce store to quote for, which is for an American religious group. I seem to be getting a lot of requests from god fearing folk, which must reflect on my good Kharma so watch this space ;0)
I have also been reading up (Wikipedia etc) on people like the spiral tribe as they came up in conversation with a friend recently.
I worked with one of the founder members (Mark) just before the whole free dance scene kicked off. We worked on a small building site together, only for a short while, but he did make quite an impression because he came across as genuinely lovely.
Mark also seemed to exude an inner confidence that was infectious. I found myself quite jealous of it at the time because I was insecure and not ready to fight the system in the way he did. I spread my wings by travelling the globe for five years, and found my own way of coming to terms with existence later on.
I remember bumping into Mark at a later date when asked for me to donate a flotation tank, which I had bought to set up a business at the time, to one of the spiral tribes indoor events. I said no because I had invested Â£3000 in it and didn’t want it to be towed off by the police, which in hindsight had probably saved me a few quid, but had I done it it might have led to some great experiences. Having said that I wasn’t really too attracted to the scene chasing free parties through muddy fields, and never really believed that techno would unite us all.
Ecstasy, however, was a revolution in itself, causing people regard each other in an altogether loving way that was so different to the alcohol and whiz fueled punk generation. The kindness it fostered might have been drug fueled, but it changed a generation for the better, and now there is an undercurrent of love that will not go away. Having said that, changing the world comes in larger doses of self awareness. The disillusion caused when the party is over can be as harmful as it was good, so as in all things balance is needed.
I got the feeling that Mark was strong enough to ride the storms. If you get to read this mate (Network23 seem to have a Paris location), letâ€™s meet up for a croissant and a chin wag.
It all is unfolding just as it should.
Right, back to cyber blogs.
I am going to pack up here and head off onto the streets for some 3d contact. The net does have its limitations, and I have done this gypsyâ€™s work for the day.
It’s deserted here.
The French all go away on holiday for the month of August leaving a skeleton staff in Paris. It’s like some post apocalyptic movie where the streets are ours, tinned goods can be fetched at will from empty supermarkets. I was here only two weeks ago in the blistering heat, when the banks of the Canal St Martin were thick with people. Today we even managed to get into Antoine & Lili’s shop without a fight.
In between trips out I managed to get a little of my redesign done for my website templates store. I am making it a lot more web 2.0, but you’ll see. But all in all I am staying away from my vaio.
So that’s all for now…
It’s my last day in Hereford and I have just gotten used to the quiet. It is no longer a roar, but sooths now.
This morning I woke early and popped on top of a hill by the house. A local farmer was collecting what looked like mushrooms. The contrasting light of the morning, the clear air, so different from the London I inhabit right now.
My car (an old Karmann Ghia) wouldn’t start this morning so I had to enrol the locals into getting helping me find some jump leads.
The chap who got me on the road – Gus – happened to have a collection of around twenty vintage tractors in his shed.
As you do of course.
We chatted about tractors for a good while until I felt I needed to be on my way.
Tomorrow it’s off to Paris for the weekend. I stay in a flat just near canal St Martin where I have wireless if I have to work.
But I really would rather not. It’s romance this weekend, but I’ll try and find the time to update this ditty.
Well not quite the middle of nowhere.
I am house sitting in a remote village on the welsh borders. Apparently it was one of the last valleys in the UK to have gotten electricity, but that was a while ago now.
The house I am in was wired up to broadband only last week. There was a connection for a year before that, but the neighbour had it, and he wasn’t sharing.
It is excessively quiet around here. It is so quiet it’s noisy. I am basically being a small scale zoo keeper. Well, I’m looking after two cats that leap cheerfully about like wraiths, looking all cute but killing off the local fauna in large amounts. I see the furry evidence that they leave me as presents.
I have a few deadlines to meet, so am tapping away on my trusty VAIO, still marveling a little that I can move my business with me. As long as I can reach the net, I can be in touch.
I’d like to move to warmer climbs when the frost moves in. that means getting a good client base built up by winter.