09.05.2012 - 27.05.2012 37 °C
How's things? Sounds like the weather in the UK has perked up, nice one.
It's stupidly hot here. A very humid 35-40 degrees during the day and 25
degrees minimum at night. Sweating aplenty!
I had a request to make my blogs a bit more frequent and therefore a bit
shorter, but I have to apologize again, without my own laptop to hand
it's impossible to do. And to put in enough detail to make it interesting,
I have to write a fair bit. You might have to read this one over a number
Since I wrote last I have explored a bit of Kuala Lumpur, and some of
Cambodia which has been interesting to say the least.
After a day of rest in Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, I caught a flight to KL. I didn't
realise quite how much the mountain climb had taken out of me, and I
was stil feeling flat as a pancake, so I did virtually nothing for almost three
days. But I certainly chose the right hostel to recover in. Some of you
who've travelled to KL might have heard of the posh backpackers hostel,
Reggae Mansion. I don't know what the reggae bit is all about, but the
place was certainly a mansion in hostel terms. It's a large three-storey
1930's building which has been renovated beautifully, with two courtyards
for socialising/eating, two great bars (one of which was on the roof top)
and excellent, good value food. The dorms are made up of little individual
booths each containing a roomy mattress, mirror and cupboard, light and
electrical socket (luxury as most hostels only have one or two for a whole
6/8 bed dorm), a curtain to give you privacy (heaven!) and a big locker
under the bed.
The interior of the hostel is modern French in style with nice light fittings and
armchairs in the common areas, and it wasn't even that much more expensive
than what I'd been paying elsewhere. The icing on the cake was a mini
cinema next to our dorm. For 7 ringgets, about 1 pound 40 (there is no
pound key on Asian keyboards!) you could pick a film and get a can of pop and
some freshly made, warm sweet popcorn! I got together with some girls
from the dorm and we had a movie afternoon which was ace, great
for recovery purposes!
When I finally dragged myself out of there and had a look round KL, I saw
the Central Market, the Merdeka Square, a little museum about KL and the
Petronas Towers. I'd had a tip off to not go into the actual towers (it costs
50RM and you can't see the towers from inside!), but to sneak into the
posh 160 pound-a-night Traders Hotel opposite, just before sunset, go to
the bar on the 33rd floor and order a drink. I got the last table by the window
and watched the lights come on. The view was fantastic!
KL, being the Malaysian capital, is a huge, dirty and busy concrete/steel jungle,
and after spending three weeks in the real jungle I felt like Mick Dundee
trying to cross the roads! I'm not keen on spending a long time in big cities
anyway, so I was ready to leave after five days. I took a flight to Phnom
Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Also dirty and busy, but a very different city.
I spent the next three days with a Malaysian chap called Ameer which
worked out well. We were glad of the company, as the first thing the hostel
owner said to us was about safety. "Don't carry a bag if you go out in the
evening as it might get snatched from your shoulder by a passing
motorcyclist, and don't go with people who invite you back to theirs to
play cards as you can end up losing a lot of money!"
You may know about the recent horrifc history of Cambodia. Between
1975 and 1979, the country was run by the communist Khmer Rouge,
lead by a horrible man called Pol Pot. During this time, mass genocide was
committed by him and his followers. An estimated 3 million people were killed -
over a quarter of the population. Many people were captured and tortured
in an old school they called Security prison 21. There is now a genocide
museum there, and we visited it. It was not a nice experience, I cried the
whole way round. People were tortured here for months, before being
moved to what is now called The Killing Fields (you might have seen the film),
to be executed in ghastly ways, bludgeoned or hacked to death (bullets
were too expensive). We also visited this after the prison.
There are mass graves here, from which many of the bodies have been
exhumed, but there are still many left in the ground and it was shocking to
see small bits of bone and clothing poking out of the soil. Each time it rains
more is exposed.
The Killing Fields and the prison have been set up to raise awareness
of what happened, and to remember the victims. It's a very organised
arrangement, with audio guides and lots of information. As you can imagine
it was a difficult and emotionally exhausting day, but I was glad I'd
gone to learn about their history, and felt it a necessary part of visiting
Cambodia. The perpetrators are still being trialled for these crimes now,
but Pol Pot got off lightly as he died after having a comfortable life, before
being brought to justice.
The next day I had a day off to do jobs, get a haircut (3 US dollars! - they
use dollars here as well as their own currency, Riel) and stock up on
insect repellant and suntan lotion for my coming week on the beach.
I had been recommended a massage place called Seeing Hands, a charity
that employs blind people to do the massage. I was looking forward
to it but instead layed there in varying degrees of pain! Khmer people
are not good at massage, they use their thumbs to bore into your
flesh, and it wasn't in the slightest bit relaxing! The hostel owner said
that it can't have been an authentic Seeing Hands place as they are
usually very good. Shame! There is fakes of everything here!
I've also learned whilst being here, that although Khmer people are
generally a positive (amazing as they have all lost relatives to the
Khmer Rouge) and friendly race, Cambodia as a country, is one of
the most corrupt places in the world. Bribery is rife, from the street
sellers to the government politicians. There is an election here next
month but everyone knows that the ironically named Cambodian People's
Party wil get in, simply due to bribery and corruption. Also, as in India,
sweatshops are a huge problem here. There are many factories
employing hundreds of people for less than a dollar a day, in terrible
I spent a week on a little castaway island called Koh Rong, which
was also interesting! This is a very new resort based on one long beach.
At one end is a little Cambodian community which is squalid and full of
litter. Further along is a cleaner area with three sets of small wooden
huts or bungalows. Mine was cute, with a double bedroom area and
a little bathroom. I shared it with a plethora of wildlife including
loads of little lizards, a huge brightly-coloured gecko called a Tokay,
and a scorpion which I found sitting on the window shutter - eek!
The lizards and geckos are great (if a little noisy) as they munch on
all the mozzies and flies, but I had been warned about poisonous
snakes and scorpions, so I had to look where I was putting my feet
every time I took a step anywhere, inside or out!
I had a really good mozzy net so I could get a restful nights sleep,
except for on the second night when I woke with nasty stomach
cramps and severe squits! I starved myself for almost two days and
lived soley on bottled water and rehydration powders, and I felt
ok after that. However, it became apparent that the kitchen hygiene
was a little on the dodgy side, as I had the runs for the whole rest of
the week (too much information?!), which miraculously disappeared on
my return to the mainland!
Despite the medical hitch, I did actually enjoy the white sandy beach
and crystal clear sea for the last few days. It was so nice just to lay on
a sunbed on the beach or in the hammock on my porch overlooking
the sea, and just read and swim. One night I went for a
night swim with the girl from the next bungalow, to experience the
magical phosphorescent plankton. This makes the water glow in the
dark with what looks like bright green fairy dust around your body as
you move. It's so cool, if you haven't seen it in real life you might have
seen it on the film, The Beach.
Whilst on Koh Rong I met a French woman about my age also
travelling alone, who was going to the Angkor Wat temples after
the island, as was I. We decided to meet back up in Phnom Penh
in a few days and go together.
So I have just spent the last three days with Florence, exploring
the temples of Angkor, one of the most amazing things I've ever done.
Angkor Wat ( Wat means temple) is the biggest and most famous
of many ancient temples spread across a huge area of northern
Cambodia. To explore them you stay in a town called Siem Reap,
about 6km south of the main Angkor park, and visit the site each
day by bicycle or tuk tuk. There are quite a few in the park area,
which was actually a town back when they were built, but some
are up to 60km away.
On day one we used bikes from the hotel, and did a big circuit
of about ten temples. It is mind blowing. The temples were built
between the 8th and 12th centuries and some are in superb
condition. My favourites though, were the ones which were partially
broken down and had huge trees growing around and inside them.
There are exquisite carvings on much of the stone and each
temple is different from the last, meaning you don't get templed-out
too quickly! Some of the temples are vast and sprawling, and take
an hour or two to explore, so by the end of the first day we were
done in, and we still had to cycle the last few kms back to the
hotel. To top it off it began to rain, and we were so saddle sore
and hungry by the end, we were ecstatic to get back to the room.
We'd been on the go for 11 hours!
On the second day we did our own thing as I didn't want to cycle
and Flo did. I got a tuk tuk to one of the farther out temples, and
then came back and did two others. We arrived back around the
same time, earlier this time, and headed straight for our hotel pool,
a necessity in this heat. And we had it all to ourselves as we were
the only ones staying in the Green Garden House, it being low
Yesterday, the third day, we cycled together again and did the
obligatory 5am pilgrimage to Angkor Wat for the unfortunately
none-existant sunrise (it was cloudy so it just got light!).
We explored Angkor Wat and the famous Bayon temple, and a few
others, and decided we'd had enough by midday. Back to the pool!
Angkor is an unbelievabley exciting, fascinating and sometimes
eerie place, so if you are at all interested in history or ancient
ruins, I urge you to go. It was one of my absolute trip highlights.
In conclusion, Cambodia has been one of the strangest and most
intriguing places I've visited. It's certainly not without personality
that's for sure. Tomorrow, I'm getting a couple of buses across
the border to Bangkok, in Thailand. I have two and a half weeks in
Thailand before moving on to Hong Kong and my China tour, at
which point I'll have only four weeks left of my odyssey!
I have to say, I'm really looking forward to coming home now.
I'm even starting to look forward to going back to work - blimey!
There's one last thing which might be potentially gutting. I think I
have a major problem with the memory card I've used for the last
three or four weeks. I've just tried to copy my photos to disc and
upload some to my blog, and neither works. It looks like my
memory card might have a virus or has been damaged by the
Am gonna be really upset if I can't access any of my pics, escpecially
the Angkor ones. I'll have to leave it for now but I might try and get
some help in Thailand. So sorry folks, but for now, and possibly not
ever, I have no pics to go with this blog. :o(
Take care all, ta ta for now.
love Mel xxx