Cambodia and the start of Laos

Trip Start Feb 24, 2010
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Trip End Sep 06, 2010


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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sat 7th August

After leaving Siem Reap we moved on to Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia.  This is the place worst hit by the Khmer Rouge.  It was pretty boring to say the least.  We visited the S21 Toul Sleung prison / museum which was run, whilst it was a prison, by the guy who recently got sentenced.  What an awesome time to visit we thought, they must be making such a big deal of this.  The curator surely gone to town with some special exhibit to commemorate the first international quality trial.  No, not a hint or a sniff of it.  It was left almost as it was found which had quite an eerie feeling to it but that left little room for any educational exhibits and what was there was pretty dire and in need of replacement.  We left after scouring every inch for something interesting and moved onto the Silver Pagoda, situated in the royal families private grounds.  Wow, what a sight we were ready for.  After paying some huge amount to enter we were treated to some beautiful pagoda buildings which were particularly nice but nothing much grander than you see all over the countryside.  We moved forward with excitement to the Silver Pagoda and entered, we could hardly contain ourselves for the sight of a building completely decorated in solid silver.  WOW, the inside was exactly the same as all the others.  Oh hang on, the carpet was peeled back in one corner to reveal some thin silver tiles which had warped very badly.  Not too much of a problem in itself but the fix they had employed was.....? Brown parcel tape!

We moved on from Phnom Penh thoroughly disappointed to the small coastal town of Sihanoukville which was nice enough but not what the write ups make it out to be.  I think we are not in the best season for this kind of place so we will forgive this one.

We planned to go from here to Vietnam and move North on the coast but for many reasons we have decided to give it a miss and concentrate on Laos.  Mainly because we spent too long in Malaysia so rather than spend the last month scooting from town to town, we can concentrate on one country.  It's a shame because there are lots of things we were looking forward to.  You can go to the shooting range in Vietnam and shoot all manner of artillery which I was really looking forward to but we both agree it is the best thing for us.

After being completely ripped off with the Laos visa and border entry (don't ask right now, I'll explain later) we arrived in beautiful Laos and made haste to the 4000 islands.  They sit near the end of the Mekong river where it starts to branch out into hundreds of smaller channels forming literally thousands of islands.  Not sure if anyone has ever counted them, but 3492 islands doesn't have the same ring.  We opted for one of the quieter islands, leaving the children to their cannabis pizzas and magic mushroom milkshakes.  We hired some bicycles which were in pretty bad shape and set off into the sun.  The terrain was mostly compact dirt track but got pretty difficult in places and I was so proud of Kal to say she doesn't ride at all.  The day was fantastic, we got to see so much of the island we wouldn't have done otherwise.  The picnic at the small waterfall with a cool fresh BeerLao near the end was rather well received I have to say...  The day after we opted for a boat trip to see the big waterfall.  25KM gentle longtail ride, relaxing and enjoyable walk, see the waterfall, walk back, BBQ – came the write up.  All for $10 US, bargain.  It was a really good day all in but I think they mistook 'relaxing and enjoyable'  for 'very technical trek which you will enjoy, if we warn you and you come with the correct footwear and a day bag instead of handbag' – see photos of Kal traversing the rock face in 20 month old, completely shot 0.99 Primark flip flops.  We made it which is the main thing, powered by the odd sip of LaoLao (home made rice whiskey).  Our guide had been drinking it since dawn, as he does every day, fell once and was constantly in hysterics.  On the way back, the boat kept cutting out due to the horrendous thunder storm but t was all good and the BBQ was beautiful, if a little small.

Marching forward we ventured on towards Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, stopping for a few hours at a small town called Pakse.  We'd originally planned to stay here but got the first night bus out and onward.  The city is really nice but there is bugger all to do there.  When we started our trip we enjoyed going to towns where the write up was something lie this, 'A quaint small town with tonnes of charm, there's little to do here except sit back and enjoy pass slowly by'.  We now read this as 'Hellish boredom in a charming little package, 6 hours is enough to enjoy it fully'.

Vientiane must be the smallest capital city either of us has ever been to.  We enjoyed the food, such good value.  It's nice to be able to eat something other than noodles and rice for a change, the rabbit's heart was quite tasty.  Vientiane was once as French as any frog's leg but in the past half century has re-found some of it's Laos-ness.

We're inside the final month of our trip and can't help thinking about our return.  It's rather a difficult position to be in as we know that once we get home we will absolutely crave the lifestyle we have here but on the other hand we are pretty bored of sight-seeing, the standard of sights in SEA is pretty low with a few obvious exceptions and it is nowhere near as cheap as it is made out to be so we can on occasions be limited within the budget we have set ourselves.  We very rarely get chance to meet anyone not trying to sell us something, even when you have bought from them they still want to up sell / cross sell / stick it in your back well.  Food choices can be limited on occasions and the same daily routine of wake up find.  All in all though we are still having a hugely enjoyable time and will continue to do so till the bitter end but we had not considered boredom being a challenge for us, we will overcome it just like all the rest, we will never surrender!
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Comments

rose on

good job you guys didn't go for a year!!!

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