Banner3.jpgBanner4.jpgBanner2.jpgBanner1.jpg

Battambang Cambodia

This day we traveled to Battambang Cambodia. We were on a bus for most of the day, about 4 hours from Bangkok to the Cambodian border, and then another couple of hours from the border to Battambang, Once there, we checked into our hotel, and got a gift from the hotel, which was a colorful scarf, which is a local thing that they use to tie their hair, carry food, carry their babies etc. generally used for everyday things.

IMG_3483.JPG

We wandered to the market in the heat, purchased some fruit and water, and proceeded to look at some of the sites the city has, the architecture is colonial in style not sure why but interesting in an Asian country. For dinner the group went to a rooftop restaurant to have some local food. The two dishes that are local are Lok Lak, and Amok, one a sweeter red sauce, and one a coconut based stew, I prefer the Amok, and will have it again.

IMG_3510.JPG

 

The next morning, we will take a motorcycle tour of the area, and see some local stuff. Well this was quite fun (we did not drive the motorcycle but were passengers). Where the other days so far have been in big cities, and the touring was all about the sites this tour was all about the people. We visited a bamboo railway, where the people have a bamboo floor placed on top of some train wheels. It can easily be taken off the track, and turned around with only a couple of people. The thing is powered by a simple lawnmower type engine and a fan belt.

IMG_3516IMG_3546

We took the train for about 8 Km down the rail, to visit a brick making factory, and seen how they prepared the brick from mud to stacking in the kiln to firing the kiln heated by burning rice husks. The family who runs it is quite nice, they have their kids helping out where they can.

IMG_3535

IMG_3537

IMG_3542

Off to a fish paste factory, where they have fish drying in the open air, smoking in the back, and buckets of salted fish fermenting into many types of fish sauce. Oh at this time the temperature was 39 C a little bit hot.

IMG_3579
39.8 C thats hot

IMG_3573

IMG_3578

Getting back onto the bikes we got to a place where they are making rice whiskey (just a still in the back of the house) moonshine anyone, it tasted quite good. The family also breeds fighting fish, housed in many jars all separated by paper so that they do not see and want to fight each other. Then off the the fish fighting ring (OK it is illegal to fight these fish) wander down a path in the forest to a table with a number of fish in jars fighting, it actually looks like they are kissing more than fighting. The men are all around, and betting on which fish will win, what a way to spend the day. Not over yet, we get back on the bikes at travel in a rural jungle, watching as the kids run from their houses to say hello as you pass by. We get to a place where they make sticky rice in bamboo (Khow Lam) I like this in Vancouver, so it is a real treat to have it right off the fire. Back on the bikes and to a house where they make rice noodles (Khow poun) one of my favorite things to have with tam mak houng, or noodle soup. We usually have them dried and have to reconstitute them in water. Seeing them being made was quite fascinating, I wanted to have some right there so fresh. Then back on the bikes to another house where they make rice paper, no not the kind that you write on, but the kind that you use to make salad rolls. I was quite amazed by the process they use, and how each member of the family helps out to make the product, we were told that on a nice sunny day they can produce 3000 of them. Now that seems like a lot, but they get paid for them by the thousand, how much you may ask well $1 per thousand $3 for the family for the day, on a good day. I can't help but to wonder if the ones we buy come from a home just like this.

IMG_3596

The people and the kids seem to just love when we come by, they do not want anything, just to see you and hear you say hello. They come out to see you, but when I bring out the camera they hide under a table etc quite cute. The people really do not have much in the way of money and possessions, but what they lack there they can make up for in the passion for what they do, they pull together as a family each playing their part in sustaining themselves. What more does one need in life than to have a place to sleep, some food to eat, and somebody to love and share life with. It makes one think about what is important in your own life I can't help to think how truly blessed I am

 

 

Day Six

This was all day sight seeing Atyuthaya tour from 6:30AM to 5:00PM, starting from bus tour till 1:00PM and ended in the boat for lunch & cruise along Namchoapraya river back. Along the river during the day is totally different from the night. Water is very brown-muddy looking, along the river are many run down houses on stilt. Many small & big boats were buzzing around but not as busy as the traffic on the road. IMG_3396

The night still not ended yet, many things to do & see so we headed out to night market. It's almost as busy as seoul night market so many people on the street trying to get you to their store or restaurant. Quite exauslting trying to say no every step along the way. Eventhough I have no room in my bag pack but can't help it to buy more stuffs because it's so cheap. My night ended with a nice dinner after searching high & low for a quiet corner just to get away from the noise on the street. IMG_3423 

Siam Riap & Ankor

This part of the trip I was really looking forward to, I have seen documentaries on this site, and know a bit of the history around it. So up at 4:30 am and out to the wat (temple) have to catch the sun rising over the towers. A little bit disappointed here as the sky was a bit overcast, and you could not see the sun rise, but spectacular none the less to be in a place with such history.

IMG_3627.JPG

IMG_3621.JPG

 

IMG_3644.JPG

Some of the temples and cities here were abandoned for 200 years, some were always used, and others abandoned only for short periods during war. Those short periods of war sometimes lasted for many years. The most impressive for me was the temple that has been kept with the forest overgrowing the walls and buildings. You can see in the gallery the pictures, the piles of rocks (the building) that you see all around, are where they fell naturally, there wasn't any earthquakes or the like that made them tumble, just the natural breakdown. Some temples have been restored to make them more resistant to the weather. One of the buildings had parts that were taken apart, and you can see piles of blocks that have been numbered in order to put them back in the correct place. The sad thing is that this restoration was being done and the civil war broke out, and the restoration team left, never to come back, and no plans as to where the numbered blocks will go. Sad, as the jigsaw puzzle to put them back together is overwhelming, so the pieces lay on the ground around the temple :-(.

IMG_3798.JPG

IMG_3749.JPG

IMG_3714.JPGIMG_3776.JPG

 

One of the things that happen while you are at the temples, is that kids come up to you selling you goods post cards, flutes, bracelets, books, fridge magnets, scarfs, and all kinds of other things. The come to you in the meekest voice “mister 3 for one dalla” and will not stop until you get to an area that they are not allowed to be. Ya you hear correct, they can only bother you in certain areas, once you approach the line, they will be on you. I mentioned this to the guide, and was told that it got so bad that they had to impose these type of rules. She said she seen on kid cross the line, and a security guard come and hit the child quite sad. So now for some reality, this is Wednesday at any time during the day, these kids should be in school, their parents take them out of school to sell for them. See the tourist are more sympathetic to a child selling things than a grown adult, and are more likely to purchase something. We did purchase some post cards, as we wanted them anyway. Your heart say buy something from them it is not that much money, but truly your heart should say not to purchase from them, so that they can get an education so that they can have the skills for a better future. So the rule do not buy anything from them, but it is so sad not to. Some of the kids are even told that the tourists know about the school thing, and will say that the go to school in the morning or afternoon, they ask where you are from, then tell you the capital city, the prime ministers name etc, to show that they are educated, sad as they can use that memory skill in learning rather than just memorizing the capitals of countries. This is a sad reality in a country this poor, but I must say for the most part the people are genuine, and happy to see you and if possible tell you about themselves and how they live, and are equally interested to know how you live.

IMG_3801

 

 

Day seven

It's another relax unplaning day except to see the Grand Palace which is few blocks away from Hotel. Grand Palace is where the King lives, it's huge & very pretty, well kept lots of history written all over the wall. the museum also very interesting dated back from 1300-1400 year.

IMG_3462

IMG_3470

By the time we finished sight seeing is 2:00PM & we decided to hangout in the market place having street food for lunch. Bought the food but have no place to sit down & eat so we hope on water taxi for 3 bath to eat our lunch while enjoying the ride across the river & back to market again. Ian got the chance to tried out durian because it's in the season right now but he was quite disappointed because they pick it to young so it's not as sweet as he thought it should be. Durian fruit is forbidden from bus & hotel because of the smell is so strong that not everyone has the stomach for it. I bought a handfull of different

IMG_3497

kinds of fruits that I really like but don't know all the english name to list them. It's 6:00PM it's time to meet Gap adventure group leader Nicole from Australia & 10 others travelling mate. It's nice to see the good mix of people from Australia, Germany, England, Philippine & Montreal Canadian who is a doctor. Well I feel much safer now that I have personal doctor on board. We went for dinner together, this give us time to get to know each other more. No I don't remember all their name yet, hopefully soon. Did my last shopping along the way back to hotel of course can't help to get more junk in my little back pack. Anyway I'm done, have to repack get ready for 7:00AM departure from Bangkok to Cambodia. 

Traveling to Phnom Penh

Up early again to travel to Phenom Pen a 6 hour drive. Most of the group slept, I spent some time writing some for the blog, long bus rides are good fro that, and seeing the sites go by. I found looking at rural Cambodia very interesting, especially the way they do business, most of which is done in stalls on the edge of the road. There are sections that each stall is selling mostly the same thing. baguette, pineapple, etc. The way that they transport the goods is also quite interesting, as cars and trucks are expensive, they tend to us motorcycles to do all the transport so I see a motorcycle with eggs piled higher that the rider, a motorcycle with a bunch of orange cages on the back, longer than our bus, and just as high all pulled by a little motorcycle. I seen a cage full of pigs for the market, about 50 chickens, you name it, it will be carried by the motorcycle. really interesting to see how they work and live. We stopped at a market in a small town, it is a tourist attraction as the locals have a delicacy that is quite odd deep fried tarantula hey who knew, so being the adventurous spirit I am, had to try it can take that one off the list of things I have to do before I die (not really all that bad, it could have been deep fried anything) IMG_3813

IMG_3814

IMG_3815

Once in Phnom Penh we went to see the genocide museum, and the killing fields the guide told us about this time in Cambodia with Pol Pot a the leader. It was absolutely one of the saddest things to hear. There were 7 million people in the country before his rule, after his rule, there 75 – 79 there were only 4 million. He basically made Phnom Penh a ghost town and proceeded to kill any person who was educated (not a farmer). Now the country has 14 million people living here, and more that 50% are under the age of 18. To give some perspective on the magnitude of the killing Hitler does not even come close to what this guy did yet I had no clue it even happened maybe it is the same for some of you reading this. I must make a point of reading more on this when I get back home. Needless to say the ride back to the hotel was very quiet. IMG_3826

IMG_3827

In the evening the tour guide invited us back to his house for a Cambodian feast, and I mean feast, when the group was finished, and you look at the serving dishes, it looked as if we had not even touched the food. The guide who lived through the whole experience seemed so nice to do that, he is also giving back so much to the community. Before the meal, we went to a school that was setup by him to teach local kids to speak English he pays a teacher from his own pocket to come a few night a week so that the kids who can not afford it can make a better life for themselves. We had the opportunity to speak with the kids, they seemed so excited to see us, and use the speech that they have learned. It was quite nice to see that and maybe have a bit of an impact in helping them learn by just speaking with them, and being interested in what they are doing, and who they are. How many are in their family, and so much more. Some want to be tour guides when they grow up, some doctors, etc, all want a better life for themselves. This is something that they would never be able to have under the rule of Pol Pot. It is nice to see I hope that they all can achieve their dreams. IMG_3828

IMG_3830

IMG_3831

IMG_3832

So the day started interesting, changed to something very somber, and ended with hope that the people will have a better life. 

Day Eight

This was a long travel day, We left Bangkok at 7:00 AM & got in Battambang at 3:00PM. It was an interesting procedure at the border on getting Visa. We hired someone to carry our bags in the pull cart and walked couple of blocks to Cambodian border. There wasn't much to see along the road, Battambang is an agriculture city, 75% of population in Cambodia are farmer as you can imagine there are row & row of rice field from Thai border all the way to Battambang city. IMG_3493

After checking in we went for a walk at the market nearby. Small market, few meat, fish, vegetable & fruit tables but half of the market are jewelry booths, I'm talking about 24 carat gold. I don't know how many people can afford this, average daily wage is $1. I was wondering who can afford to eat leave alone buying jewelery. A bowl of fish curry calls Amok with rice cost $4 & a bottle of water $1, my dinner was $5 and my breakfast following morning cost $4.50 -baguette with omelet $2, yogurt with cereal $1:50 coffee $1. Yes I was pigging out this morning, I had to store up for my all day motorcycle tour :).

IMG_3510

IMG_3512

 

 

Off to Kratie

Up early in the morning for a 5 hour bus ride, we joked about how we are told that the ride will be 5 hours, and we are there in 3 and a half. Well today was a little different, started off ok, but I noticed the driver kicking the tires. So about an hour in, we have a flat tire, we get that one changed, (do they ever put the nuts on tight). So the spare is on and we drive about another hour, flat again (the spare went) so we were close to a shop (someones front yard), and got the tire repaired with a new tube, should be fine now. Well bad things have to happen in three right, so 10 min down the road the repaired tire goes flat. Take a tire from the back (they are double) put it in the front, and put the spare that has a leak on the back should be fine until we get to our destination. Another hour goes by, and you guessed it, another tire thing, one of the back tires separates quite a noise, as the rubber is spinning. He knows there is a town a little bit up the road, so we limp along at 5 – 10 Km/h until we get to a shop, this time it is going to take a little bit longer, so we go for lunch. IMG_3844IMG_3848IMG_3851

Now we have two new tires, and a good spare, cross our fingers. We get to town fine, and watch the sun set over the Mekong river. IMG_3857

Missed our tour to see the river dolphins but we changed plans and are going to do that in the morning. Got to get up, but not that early, so decide to get a wake up call anyway, seems standard right well once in the room I look where the phone is so that we can answer it in the morning no phone. I guess we are going to get a wake up knock. The next morning we go and see the dolphins quite peaceful on the little boat, tried to take some pictures, but had too much zoom, then have to find them in the camera and take a picture could not really time it correctly, so I gave up, and enjoyed the time on the water. You may be able to see some of them, in the pictures, the ripple in the water should be a good indication that a dolphin was there. IMG_3877IMG_3885

These river dolphins are quite rare proximately 75 of them. Off to Laos now, writing this on the bus traveling to the boarder. I look forward to it. 

Day Nine

 After breakfast we went on motorcycle tour, we saw what people do for living & it's pretty sad to see how hard they have to work for next to nothing, barely able to put food on the table. this making me realize how lucky I am. Generally life is very simple here, people work to put food on table, they don't have much of material things. They look happy, always a smile on their face when they look at you & say hello. We went to see 4 different factories I means 4 family operated business-Koa Lam, noodle, rice paper, fish drying & fish fermenting process (Pa Dek-Nam Pa). IMG_3513

IMG_3592

IMG_3584

All these are done by hand exactly the way I remembered 30 years ago in Lao. I am sure they still doing the same in Lao as well. My 22 year old tour guide speaks english pretty good so he was telling me about his family -a wife & 3year old daughter. He wishes that he has more opportunity to make life better for his family, it breaks my heart to hear how unfortunate he is for not being to pursue his dream.

IMG_3614

Don Khong

Once in Laos, we made our way to a waterfall across the Mekong river, quite spectacular to see that much water flowing over the edge.

IMG_3907.JPG

We then continued on to Don Khong in the section of 4000 islands quite the laid back. The next day we rented a couple of bikes, and rode around the island.

IMG_3968.JPG

 

This was quite an experience to see all the kids run from their homes saying saw bai di (hello) they are truly thrilled to see us ride by. Seeing the way that they live, and work in the fields is special, the people seem to be happy, and relaxed, something that I can not say for the busy lives in the big city.

IMG_3966.JPG

While on our way back to Pons Hotel, we came upon a German guy, who had a flat tire, and was walking his bike in bare feet. We stopped to talk for a while and offered him a ride back to the hotel. Since Phaydy had a sore knee at the time, we decided that he would take one of our bikes, and carry his bike along, while I would double with Phaydy back to the hotel. It was about 8 km back so I'm sure that the guy was more than happy not to have to walk all the way back in bare feet. He bought us a drink to say thank you. I introduced him to Juliana (a German girl in our group) and they talking in German for a while, both of them were happy to be able to speak their native language for a while. This guy had been traveling for 7 months already, and was ready to go home, we wished him a nice journey for the rest of his trip.

IMG_3950.JPG

IMG_3984.JPG

 

 

Day Ten

Starting out at 6:30AM leaving Battambang to Siem Riap, Another long travel day, checking in hotel @ 4:30PM. Went out for a drink-happy hour all drinks 50% off till 7:00PM. It's a fancy bar cater for tourist and it's expensive even with 50% off consider this side of the world a glass of cocktail is $6, bottle of beer is $4, you can imagine they double the price because it cost half of that in lower scale bar. After everyone all happy we strolled to town to local food restaurant that Nicole our leader recommended. What we ordered were pretty good & it's not expensive. I'm talking about $5 for dinner is reasonable, any thing more is too much. It's early night cause we have to go to Angkor Wat at 4:30AM to catch sun rise.  

Don Daeng

This day we left Don Khong to see wat Phu and stay in Don Daeng. This wat was built in the 9 century before Ankor wat more than likely by the same people, as there is an ancient road that runs between the two. Quite interesting the story of the temples origin, and how it has been restored a number of times throughout history. IMG_4012.JPG

Then on to one of the highlights of the trip for me, a night at a home stay on Don Daeng we were picked up in boats that were two boats (long canoe style) lashed together with a wooden platform, and four rattan chairs placed on the deck. Thank goodness for all the safety regulations. In North America, the chairs would have to be bolted down, railings placed up, seat belts and life jackets provided, here na, just sit down and we will go. IMG_4035.JPG

Once across the river, we were greeted by the members of a village, and were dispersed into our respective home stays for the evening. IMG_4051.JPG

We were provided with a comfortable mat on the floor, blankets, and a mosquito net. IMG_4067IMG_4083

The kids were playing around, and were more than happy to have you take pictures with them. Dinner was prepared for the group by the village, and was prepared and served in t rational Lao style where we sat on the floor and food was in the middle family style. I am not sure that all the people in the group liked the dinner as much as I did, but I enjoyed the meal. IMG_4077

Off to bed its only about 8:30, but it is pitch black, and nothing else to do. It poured rain a few times throughout the night, and the rain on the tin roof was quite noisy. No alarm needed to get up the roosters did that job well. Now about the roosters, listening to them all morning there must be some sort of hierarchy in the sound as some can not complete the call ur-ur-ur -ur some could only get out the first ur, other two, and only the best get the whole thing, and hold the last note, Maybe its an age thing who knows, and who really cares, but it is something that I noticed and thought that I would tell you all. A traditional Lao breakfast was given, and then some free time before we leave, so we went for a walk on the beach. The cows use the beach to rest, so one has to keep and eye out where one is stepping.

IMG_4080

Nice and relaxing. We take the same boats back across the river, and begin our journey to Luang Prabang via air with a stop in Vientien to change planes and lunch. 

Copywrite ian-phaydy.ca 2014