Friday, August 5, 2011

The sign says it all.... sometimes!

I finally have some time (and no nclination to return in a hurry to everyday life) to look at our photos. Signs in SE Asia often make me smile and I cannot resist taking a quick snap if no-one is looking (or even sometimes if they are!)

And finally one from Nong Pet - a fairly remote Hmong village in the Xieng Khouang provence of Laos - it needs no explaining.  It does however, make me see redder than red, and begs the question........ why the hell did I see no evidence of those responsible making a contribution to cleaning up what they left behind?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Time cut short

We've just had news that Tony's brother is grvely ill - he was sick before we left but thngs have got worse in the last couple of days.  We're heading home!
See you agian Cambodia.

Day 20 ... It's raining again (sorry Supertramp!)

The little tuk tuk man Tony booked yesterday turned up at about 9.30.  We’d paid our bill, finished breakfast and were ready to go so he put on his raincoat, rolled up his pants and zipped us into the back of the tuk tuk.

The road out of Kampot is rutted & pot-holed – almost tuk tuk eating sized so we bounced and sloshed  our way for about the first 15 minutes.  The further out we got, the heavier it rained but the actual road surface improved.  Passed rice fields, some bring ploughed, sothers planted – now THAT is back breaking work, others obviously planted within the last few weeks.

Assorted versions of wet weather gear on the riders of motos that passed us, including a small boy in the front seat who was completely wrapped in poncho – head not sticking out the hole, and the whole thing ‘stuck’ to him by the wind/forward motion of the bike.

It’s a slower trip in wet weather and we arrived in  Kep about 10.30am, and as we expected the little tuk tuk struggled mightily to get up the hill to Kep Lodge.  Down to first gear, plenty of revs but only one occasion where the driver had to add foot power.

There appears to be another guesthouse building on either side of the road below Treetops and Kep Lodge – will have to ask Dan what’s going in there.  Kep lodge is expanding too with another 2 story bungalow being built between pineapple and Dan’s own house.

The gardens have grown enormously since we were here last April, and there are a number of new taff, but otherwise it is just as we left it.  As a bit of a tech head, Dan has installed a web cam looking over the pool, so if you feel like having a look just google  Kep weather webcam.

We walked down to have lunch at one of the crab restaurants and were just about to order when we were hurriedly moved because another wave of storm/rain was coming.  It had cleared by the time we finished and we were able to walk back without testing out our $3 Luang Prabang umbrellas here.

Hope this weather clear a bit – don’t mind at all if it rains every afternoon but if it continues to rain all day we’re going to get a little cabin fever because there is no way I want to ride a moto down to Ha Tien in the rain.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 19 ... Wandering Kampot

We wanted to explore Kampot a bit more so we headed off on foot towards the main market.  It feels like there has been some growth and re-building going on in Kampot since we were here last year.  That and we were also walking a completely different route.

There are still many old colonial buildings in need ot repair and it is a shame that the new building is in ‘chinese wedding cake’ style rather than the more traditional French colonial.

The markets haven’t changed, they are still hot, crowded, leaky and filthy.  Sadly, the Kampot market are the worst we’ve been in in terms of appeal and cleanliness.   In the fresh food markets you still have to wander over dirt floors that are, in reality many years worth of blood, guts & other crap rather than just dirty concrete like we have seen in so many other markets.  Even in Nong Pet in Laos, the Hmong market had a concrete floor and a decent roof.

Transport vehicles here are different to the rest of Cambodia too, long versions of trailors pulled by motorbikes, little pushbike carts (not cyclos) but as always they are usually loaded well beyond what we might consider safe working loads.

After the markets we headed back down along the river front and stopped for lunch at the Rikitikitavi.  The rain had started and it was really quite pleasant looking out over the river.

There is a sunset river cruise which left the riverfront at 4pm which we thought we might do.  We headed back to the riverfront about 10 to 4 but the rain was setting in again, and the boat, the Diva, although bigger than others we saw was not exactly a big boat.  We decided against the trip – sunset unlikely, raining, river getting choppy in the wind and the thought of possibly another wet trip like on Tonle Sap just wasn’t that appealing. 

We decided to have a foot massage at Seeing Hands Blind Massage - $6 for 2 half hour massages – very very good indeed!  It was still raining and not yet dinner time so we headed to the rusty Keyhole for a drink.  Who should we run into but Scott & Mima (on a day trip from Kep) and Leighton, the pommie guy from yesterday’s bus.

Several beers later, the rain had eased and we went in search of dinner.  Ended up at the Bokor Lodge – I had fish amok and it was stunningly good.  I don’t understand why people think Khmer food is not as good as Thai.

Off to Kep tomorrow, so I hope this weather lifts, I really don’t fancy a week of todays weather.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 18… On the bus again…. Aaarrrghhhh!

We had half a day in PP before the bus trip to Kampot so we headed for the Central market.  A couple of singlets (buying saves washing – he he) some shorts, and a re-stock of shampoo, toothpaste etc.  Back to Blue Lime to check out and wait for the bus pick-up.
Bus arrived, we loaded and surprise, surprise we left only about 10 minutes after the scheduled time.  That was the ONLY good thing about this bus trip.  About a dozen tourists and maybe the same locals when we left the bus station.  Half empty bus means stopping and picking up en-route.
Phnom Penh traffic is pretty manic - not as bad as Ho Chi Minh City but some of the things you see leave you wondering just .... how?

So we stopped, and we stopped, and we took what appeared to be the back roads, and we stopped to pick up an old ladies bag of vegies, and we stopped for some bloke to have a pee, and we stopped for someone to get off, and we stopped to deliver a parcel, and we stopped for someone to get on.  And on it went!  Add to all this a horn happy driver – how often do you have to blast your horn for the moto you’re are going to pass to realise there is a bus coming – 7 or 8 times at least… starting 50yards before you draw level and one final one as you leave the poor person in your wake!
And we stopped again, to deliver the old ladies vegies, and for someone else to have a pee.  The westerners got their comfort stop.  And we stopped again, and again and again – and while all this was happening we were being tortured with more episodes of Khmer stand up comedy and Karaoke.  Last year when we got the bus back from Kep it took about 3 hours, this time it was closer to 5. 

When the girls were little we had a saying – “you need a milkshake” – meaning someone was tired and cranky and needed some fast acting food to make them a nice person again.  I can tell you, I needed a milkshake by the time we arrived, and we were yet to face the tuk tuk driver scrum that greets every western traveller at every bus station in Cambodia.  So now you know why I added the Aaaarrghhhhh! the title line  of this post.
We got the bag and headed away from the mele for a ciggie.  A pommie bloke we’d met on the bus joined us and the three of us just stood and had our smoke.  The drivers finally got the message that they just needed to wait quietly, and that jumping in our faces would have a negative outcome for them.  Picked our driver, negotiated a price ($3 to drop us at Mea Culpa and the pommie guy at his g/h.  The other drivers were none too happy.
Arrived at Mea Cupla,   complimentary coffee, check in and by now it was about 5.45pm and we couldn’t muster the energy to go out in search of dinner so we stayed here and had pizza.  Ben the Irish owner has a wood fired pizza oven – and it makes the best pizzas I’ve eaten in a long time.  They bake their own bread too.
Thankfully we have a week before having to endure the Sorya bus again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 17 .. Battambang to Phnom Penh

We've just checked into the Blue Lime and from what we've seen in the last half hour, thisplace thorougly deserves its reputation.  Just amazing!

The bus trip from BB was typical of buses everywhere in Cambodia.

We had 2 episodes of Khmer Comedy before some videp clips of crooning young men and weepy young women.  Then a movie - not that we could follow it but the hero was a young monk, the bad guys were a group with a fat little businessman, a zorro, a rambo and a the guy from Pirates of the Caribean.  The good guys also had an Islamic famiy and a Christian family.  There were shades of Forrest Gump when the young monk carried the old monk (like Forrest and Lt Dan).  Quite a production, lots of things getting blown up by fireworks - all a bit strange.  Sometimes you can follow a foreign language film by the story, but not this one.  The only consolation was that there was no singing!

The 9am bus left at 9.40am and we stoppd about 11 for a 'comfort stop' - the men along the fence-line the ladies - well I didn't need to go so I have no idea what it looked like.

About 2pm coming through Kompong Trach it started to rain, by the truckload, really heavy rain.  The driver slowed a bit - maybe because the big crack in his windscreen was making it difficult to see.

We arrived at the Sorya bus station about 3.30 and Monin was there to meet us.  We'd got his number form a fellow Trip Advisor member and had phoned him last night to arrange the pick up so we didn't have to pass through the rugby scrum of touting drivers.

Still raining but the verandah off our room is undercover and the breeze is lovely.  Blue Lime is really central so we'll wander out for dinner a bit latre.

The lovely little fellow on reception has just rung to confirm he's booked our bus tickets for both the to Kampot leg and the return from Kep trips.  What service!

It's great to be back in PP!

Day 16 ... The Circus

I’m actually writing this on the bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh – trying to block out the Khmer version of stand up comedy currently planning on the DVD (and with a speaker right above my head!)  it’s a bit like Sienfeld, a bit like Benny Hill but mostly just awful!
Back to day 16…. We’d planned a nothing day, hanging round the pool, just relaxing after our trip the day before to the temples with all the stairs.  I noticed a poster on the wall of our hotel for something called Phare Ponleu Selpak  - it looked interesting so I thought I might check it out.  Their story deserves much more widesspread publicity so this is my way of doing that.  I went for an afternoon tour and it was one of the most uplifting afternoons I’ve spent in a long time.
It all began in a refugee camp on the Thai border.  A French teacher visited and gave the kids some drawing lessons in an attempt to maybe keep them occupied, and give them a means of expressing built up feelings since few of them were literate.  After the end of the war, and the people in the camps were repatriated to their towns, this group of budding young artists returned to Battambang.
Keen to not let their friendship slip, they formed PPS and began drawing classes again.  Realising that drawing classes alone were not enough to keep kids occupied & off the streets, one of them who had done a bit of gymnastics went to PP to do some training with a circus school.  This was in 1994 and the school now has classes available in art (drawing – pencil, charcoal, pastel) painting (ink, oil, acrylic) music (traditional instruments) drama, and as an extension of the art classes, graphic design and a small but growing animation studio. 

 The classes are free and open to all comers.  In addition, the centre now has a library (interestingly the librarian is also a social worker) a child care centre and a small live in centre for kids rescued from domestic violence or trafficking (this centre was built with a grant from UNICEF)
But the real star, and the source of most of their local income is the circus.  The circus school students range in age from about 6 or 7 to 19 and it appears they ‘graduate’ to the performing troupe about 13.  Music for the performance is provided by the band from the school playing both traditional instruments (like the Asian version of a xylophone) and western instruments (an elec piano and a drum kit).  They were fantastic and their timing was spot-on!
There were 9 boys and one girl in the performance we saw last night.  PPS is, in many ways a bit like the Flying fruit Flies or Circus Oz, all kid, lots of acrobatics, no need for language to tell the story or entertain, and plenty of slapstick.  The show opened with a young fellow doing the most amazing acrobatics with a long (strong) hanging piece of cloth, swings, hanging, gymnastic moves like those iron crosses you see at the Olympics and the splits 15 feet off the ground.  He then wrapped himself up and hung up above the stage as 3 ‘clowns’ came on.  They were the link across all acts which included juggling, wire walking and pretty amazing feats of balance and tumbling.  We also learned that slapstick, clown body language and visual innuendo has no language barriers!
I took some photos, (which was OK but please don’t use the flash – more than fair enough) but given light conditions and the limitations of my photo skills do not do anywhere near justice to the performance but, they do give you an idea of some of the things we saw.

So there you are, anyone visiting Battambang, put PPS on  your ‘must do’ list, performances are Mon. Wed & Friday , tickets are $8 and the hour long show starts at 7pm.  The tour round the school starts at 2pm and costs $2. There is a good brochure available – with pics, and it is handy to have this because many tuk tuk drivers don’t understand ‘circus school’ but if you show them a picture they can go straight there.
WE are now onto volume 2 of Khmer comedy DVD! I’m on the sunny side of the bus so it might be ipod time!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Day 15 ... Around Battambang (aka "Oh those stairs!")

Ran into a Qantas flight attendant at breakfast who knew Len Sales & Stu McKenzie – small world!

Shanthai picked us up as planned at 9.30am and after dropping off our laundry we headed out of town passed the Blasck Stick Man. 

First stop was the norry (bamboo train).  What a blast that was.  Not sure how far the track runs, but it is dead straight and only one set of rails so when someone is coming the other way, the norry with the least passengers has to get off the track.  This is done simply by lifting off the bamboo platform and the 2 sets of wheels, rolling the other guy passed and putting it all back together again.

At the end of the ride you get off and have a bit of a wander round.  There is a brick kiln there.  60,000 bricks are fired at a time, powered by rice husks (complete recycling).  It takes 15 days to fire, 10 to cook and then 5 to cool.  Three little poppets (sister, sister, friend aged between 5 & 8) gave me a ‘tour’and it cost me three cans of drink.  I realise this is not particularly good for their teeth but that’s how business is done. 

After the norry we headed for Wat Phnom Sampeau, a temple on the top of an amazing limestone outcrop.  Lonely Planet describes it as a long hot climb and they are right – we were both dripping when we reached the Wat and stupa at the top. 300+ stairs and my quad muscles felt every one of them!  Amazing views from the top.  We decided we didn’t need to see the killing caves so we bought another bottle of water and headed back down where Shanthai was waiting.

We headed off on a dirt road, potholes big enough to eat a tuk tuk, and full of water from yesterdays big storm.  We bumped and bounced our way for about 25km, passing some really pretty land, still flat as a pancake, rice paddies as far as you could see  and dotted with little villages (painfully poor) and cattle tethered on the side of the road munching away on whatever they could reach  Next stop was Wat Banan.  Built in the 11th century it’s in a pretty poor state of repair, but to get there we had another set of stairs to climb.  The pictures say it all!

Storm clouds were gathering again but we managed to avoid it – perhaps the storm was headed elsewhere, but we arrived back at the Bus Stop about 3pm and tucked into a home made burger (very very good) and a beer.  Picked up the laundry (next door to the Bus Stop) and home for a swim, a late nanny nap and some internet before we head out for dinner.

Are planning to hit the food stalls by the river tonight. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Day 14 ... Off to Batambang

Booked tickets on the 10.30 bus to Battambang, collected at the hotel by minibus just after 10.  Got to the bus station about 10.15, got on the bus about 10.25, bus got going 11.05, bus stopped to pick up additional passenger 11.08, bus stopped again for additional passenger 11.12.  Stopped in Sisaphon for toilet stop about 12 and arrived at the Battambang bus station about 1.30.

The land is pancake flat and covered in rice paddies. Among the paddies we could see what looked like strips of plastic.  I realised they were not some Khmer version of scarecrows, because the other night coming home from the river we'd seen blue fluro lights which the guide had told us were cricket catchers.  Crickets are a fast food here and you can see vendors with baskets of fried crickets for sale all over the place.  This is one Khmer food I have no intention of trying!

 Our bus driver must have been related to the one we had last year coming back from Kep to Phnom Penh because his hand was pretty much taped to the horn as well.  His overtaking skills had to be experienced too.  We passed a truck – the bigger you are the more you overtake, and the bigger you are the more right of way you have, but getting this close to a truck was a first.

 We were pretty sure how tuk tuk drivers would work here and were right, but I don’t think the 4 pretty young English girls who were also on the bus knew what hit them.  These tuk tuk drivers are worse than those we encountered in PP last year, waving laminated pricelists in our faces.  We ended up picking the quiet one who was the least aggressive.

Au Caberet Vert is lovely. Six bungalows and a main building which houses reception, the bar and the restaurant.  They also have a lovely pool which is sand/reed filtered which looks very inviting.

We walked into town for a bit of an explore – Battambang is a strange town, and although it is getting an increasing number of tourists, does not seem to be that bothered in catering for them.  Few restaurants, no street signs (the streets are numbered 1, 1 ½ , 2, 2 ½ , 3 and so on running parallel with the river).  We walked to the river, crossed the new bridge and headed back up towards town through a lovely riverside parl.  The sky was darkening and before long we knew we needed to take shelter.  Ducked into the first little restaurant we could find for a late lunch and to wait out the storm.  The photos do not do it justice, it was equally as loud as the one on the lake a couple of nights earlier, but at least we were dry.

Still looking for some tourist info we headed for the Bus Stop Guesthouse – run, according to Lonely Planet by a friendly Aussie.  This proved to be true, Tony had a beer and I had an iced coffee as we chatted with this bloke.  Organised a tuk tuk tour for tomorrow, details of which, and the sights we want to see are to be worked out with the driver when he picks us up at 9.30am.  It seems Lauren & Liz may have battered a gin bottle at the Bus Stop in March – his/our descriptions matched, but I cannot vouch for the accuracy of his memory – will have to check that one with her.

Back to the Caberet for a shower before heading out again for dinner.  Ended up at the Angkor Thom restaurant round the corner from the Bus Stop – meal only so-so, probably wouldn’t return, but this is the first meal we’ve had in 2 weeks that has not been fantatic – put it down to poor choices on our part rather than poor food on theirs.

B 9.30pm almost all of Battambang is asleep so we headed home to the internet and the tv.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Day 13 ... Kulen Mountain

Over our last two visits we have visited most of the major tourist sites around Siem Reap.  We decided to take a visit it Phnom Kulen,  sacred mountain to the Khmers and source of the rock used to build Angkor Wat and the other nearby temples.

Suwan picked us up about 9am and after buying our entry tickets (it’s not covered by the Angkor pass and costs $20/person since a ‘businessman’ bulldozed a road and now has the concession on the ‘toll’) headed out of the city.  The private road is in poor condition and it is quite obvious that none of our entry money is allocated to upkeep of the road.   Spectacular views on the way up.  First stop was the river where hundreds of lingas (phallic symbols) have been carved into the rock.  The water was shallow enough to see the carvings.

On then to the temple complex on the top of the mountain.  A huge reclining Buddha has been carved into the rock and people from all over Cambodia make pilgrimages here.  Sadly, once again we had to run the gauntlet of the beggars on the way up.  Fantastic views.

Then Suwan lead us (with the aid of one of the local kids) on a walk round the top of the mountain, past a cave where the monks live, another cave that was used by the KR during the fierce fighting in the area, and back to the village below the temple.

The waterfall was next on the agenda, and we decided to walk through the village rather than take the car.  There are some Angkor era temples in a very damaged state, but the waterfall was really impressive.  A shallow area above the first fall was where the local kids swam (clothed or not!)   Then another wide but not high fall and finally a steep descent down some very rickety stairs to the base of the big falls.  Very impressive and many people enjoying the water.

We had lunch at one of the little restaurants at the top before returning to Siem Reap about 4pm.

We had hoped Kim would be well enough to join us for dinner but she was not feeling up to it.  So it was just 4 of us, Suwan and Rithika and Tony and me.  We decided to eat in Pub St and it turns out Rithika had never eaten in a restaurant, and never been in Pub St.   

Ice cream and coffee at Blue Pumpkin ended a lovely day.  Back at the Antenue, we said our goodbyes to Suwan and Rithkia and tomorrow we’re off to Battambong.
If you're thinking of visiting Siem Reap and need a wonderful driver, you can't go past Suwan.  You can contact him at

Day 12 - Suwan and the Tara boat..

We had a wonderful surprise at breakfast this morning.  Sitting outside, poolside enjoying breakfast when who should pop his head around the corner of the building?  Suwan.

It was fantastic to see him, but our time was so tinged with sadness.  He was able to tell us more about how Kim lost their baby 5 days before he was due.  Many tears, few answers.  His answer is so typically Buddhist “the baby did not want to stay with us.”  Kim’s mother came to stay and she is getting a little better each day.

We booked a trip on the Tara for their Tonle Sap sunset cruise.  Picked up from the hotel at 3.30 we headed out to the lake.  Our ‘tour’ group consisted of a Dutch couple, a Korean girl and 8 Aussies  - a  family of 3 from Perth, and 3 uni girls also from Perth and us. 

A stop enroute at the Gecko centre where the history and ecology of the lake were explained and then stopped at  the ‘wharf’ (for want of a better term) and onto one of the little boats before heading out.  The weather didn’t look so good, but what the hell it would be an adventure. 
Passed through the floating village – man that is some life – everything is waterborn – school, church, mosque, homes, shops and petrol station.  The boats were all in pretty rough condition and life is certainly not easy for these people. 

It started to rain as we approached the fish & crocodile farm – hardly a farm and we were not really interested but it was on the itinerary so we behaved ourselves.  Once onto this boat the rain really started to come down – probably the heaviest we’ve seein since the escapade in Ho Chi Minh City with Lauren & Ainsley in 2004.  Absolutely pelting and driven sideways by strong winds.

The usual attempts to get us to buy something at the souvenir shop, as well as small boys draped in snakes that you could photograph for $1.  What really appalled us (and the other parents on board) were the women in unseaworthy craft holding very small snotty looking kids begging for money.  The kids were sopping wet and it was quite clear they were shivering in cold.  WE were a captive audience but they didn’t get much, the storm finally abated and we left for the big boat.  The wind had whipped up qhite a chop, the trip to the Tara was very rough and we were still getting wet from the spray whipped up by the wind.  Tony had a brainwave & tried up to put up his umbrella much to the amusement of our little tour group.  Needless to say, it didn’t work.

Gives a whole new meaning to 'moving house"

When we finally got to the Tara everything on the upper deck was sopping wet so they moved us downstairs – among the renovation materials, the diesel generator and set us up some hurriedly  dried tables.  Dinner was sadly not the 3 course buffet they had advertised but individually ordered dishes.  Drinks were, however all you could drink although the 3 princesses from Perth were disappointed not to get cocktails.  They ordered a bailey’s and ice and it came as half a tumbler full.

We left the Tara only to find that the propeller of the little transport boat was fouled with weed, so Tony and his trusty torch went to the rescue.  We may have been there till dawn without it because the captain didn’t have a torch and one of his crew only had a silly little baby light on his phone.

Dropped off back at the hotel, we headed into a very wet Siem Reap that looked in parts like it had had some localised flooding.  Way fewer tourists out and we headed straight to the night market to see our favourite foot massage ladies.  A coffee at the market branch of Blue Pumpkin and we headed back to the hotel.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 11 ... On to Cambodia

Last night’s little episode with the bill and the exchange rate was just the start of a god-awful night.  The problems we’d had with the rock-hard and lumpy mattress seemed to rear their ugly heads again and we probably managed about 2 hours of very broken sleep by the time we had to get up at 3.45am.  The cab we booked for 4.30 arrived on time and we passed about 5 cars on the 10 min drive to the airport.  Because the flight was going via Pakse it was considered a domestic – god if we’d known that we’d have tried an extra  45minutes of sleep.  

Checked in and looked about for somewhere to get something to eat.  Asked if we were OK to go over to the international terminal but the little man just pointed to the just opening ‘restaurant’ at the domestic terminal.  Grotty does’t come close but there seemed little option so we ordered a ham sandwich and a coffee.  Both were OK till I noticed a rat running across the ice-cream case just behind where Tony was sitting.  We paid & left pretty smartly.

The flight itself was fine – hardly to cruising altitude and finished our ‘breakfast’ and we were descending to Pakse, and the same on the flight from there to Siem Reap.  Lao airlines idea of breakfast is novel!  Served in a little box, a hamburger & chips, piece of cake and some apple slices – all cold!

Arrived half an hour early in Siem Reap hoping to see Suwan there to pick us up.  Turns out I had managed to email him the wrong dates, and when we bought a SIM card and phoned him, he was at Banteay Sri with a guest.  Never mind, grabbed another tuk tuk to the hotel and checked in.

We asked about balconies & smoking and soon the manager came back and offered us an uprade (free of charge) to a poolside Cabana Room.  Whooo hoo!  Very nice indeed.  This is a really nice place, staff are very friendly and all we’ve had contact with peak excellent  English. 

Had a sleep to try and catch up on some of what we missed last night then went into town for dinner.  Ate at the little streetside places near Pub St and then off to the Night Market for a foot massage.  I could not believe my eyes, when sitting there waiting for her next customer was the very same girl I’d had half a dozen massages from in April last year.  Not sure if she recognised me or was reacting to my recognising her but she greeted me like an old friend and I had the best massage!  Probably in response to all the competition, the price has actually gone down  from $3 to $2 for 15 minutes.  Just what the doctor ordered!

Running the gauntlet of “massage Sir” was a bit like Bukit Bintang in KL and is more than mildly annoying after the 7th time of saying ‘No thanks” especially when 5 of them are standing shoulder to shoulder and working for the same place!  This both on the way into the night market and on the way out.

Got a coffee at the Blue Pumpkin and a tuk tuk home for what I hope will be a full and good night’s sleep!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Day 10 Marketing in Vientiane

Still no internet access at Sala Inpeng .  Headed out after breakfast in search of some more markets.   Along the riverfront then ‘inside’ to the Three Elephants Statue – just didn’t see too many elephants – just a bloke dressed in sort of Siamese costume pointing at Thailand.  Then to the Talat Khua Luang – a local market complete with butcher shop, fruit & vegies and clothes.  Next stop was the Nongduang market – Tony got a pair of shorts and we grabbed a tuk tuk back to Talat Sao for another look. 

Coffee and cake then off on a fabric hunt.  Tony was after a watch and another padlock for the 2nd bag – Lauren’s one we brought with her was showing signs of wear and we decided it was a bit risky to continue using it.

Down on the ground floor, passed ‘retrovision’ and ‘harvey norman’ were the fabric stalls.  I’m in heaven!  So much to look at, so  much to choose from it’s really hard to decide what I’m after but I finally settled on some mut mee (Ikat) indigo dyed cotton – who knows how well the dye will hold once I get it home but I love it now.  I really wanted a hanging but it seems the Lao weavers want to put orange into every hanging that has purple and blue in it so I came away empty handed.  You know how I hate orange!  How easily 2 hours vanishes when I’m in a fabric store! 

Tony went off on  watch hunt as is his usual SE Asian venture.  Came back with a beauty – press a little button and the LED numbers light up with the time.  Fantastic in the market, even in the hotel room but he can’t see anything in daylight!  Oh well!

Off to Full Moon for a beer and the internet.  Last night in Laos tonight and if the rain stays away we’re going to have dinner at one of the street stalls that serves something that looks like a cross between steamboat and Korean BBQ.  We’ve booked a taxi for 4.30am in the morning to be at the airport for our 6.20am flight to Siem Reap.  With luck I’ll have better internet access there – not that it’s really hard having to go out and grab a coffee while I go online.

Out for dinner and some last minute shopping in the night stalls that pop up along the footpath late in the afternoon.  I hadn’t had any luck finding a purple hanging – and it wasn’t through lack of trying.  What should appear on the footpath at dusk but a neat little hanging which I snapped up for 40,000kip.  Probably not silk, probably not hand loomed but who cares it’s a wonderful colour and not an orange thread in sight.   

But then I spied a little gem.  The Hmong seem to be moving from their traditional colours (obtained from using natural dyes) to much brighter colours which they get from modern synthetic fabric – so much fluro polyester satin!  They then pull apart the traditional pieces which they sell as bits.  I found a lovely collar attached to a bag.  Not the slightest bit interested in the bag, but the collar is lovely,  and I snapped it up for 80,oookip – happy happy happy!

We had our last meal in Laos at the street restaurants along the riverfront.  Lao soup with seafood – cook it yourself at the table – clay pot/bowl on top of a charcoal burner and you add noodles, all kinds of herbs (Vietnamese mint, Thai basil etc) and cabbage etc, then squid and prawns, cook it all up and away you go.  It is served with a yummy peanut sauce which we finished off by dunking lumps  of sticky rice in.  Drink the soup left in the cook pot at the end.  Fantastic!

A final iced coffee at the Sabaidee Café before heading back to pack & try and get an early night since we have to be up at 3.45am. 

And then Tony went to settle the bill!  $30 per night – worked out the exchange at about 8000kip to the dollar (the USD is currently about 8010 and the AUD 8340) - signs all over the town asking visitors to pay in Kip.  The hotel exchanges at 8500 which means we paid considerably more than we should have.  Funny but they don ’t exchange  at that rate if you had a handful of US notes!  Just left a bit of a sour taste and combined with the rock hard bed, the no wifi, we probably wouldn’t stay here again.

Will have to come back and add pictures - not had a chance to load them off the camera
cheers for now

Monday, July 18, 2011

Day 9 We LOVE Vientiane

Problem last night with internet connection – we could gat on to the Sala Inpeng network but they were not connecting to the internet.  The lovely little lady at the front desk rang & I spoke to the manager.  She came to our room about ½ hr later and said Manager would see us today.  Couldn’t solve the problem so I headed for a coffee shop with free wifi.

Breakfast is served on the verandah or each bungalow.  Simple – juice, fruit, croissant & coffee but very peaceful.  Headed out about 8.30 – walked up to the presidential palace then up  Rue Lane Xian towards the Patuxay.  Stopped enroute at the Talat Sao market/mall/shopping centre.  A combination of Sorya Mall in PP, and Sungai Wang in KL and plenty to see and do.  Wandered there for a while through fabric shops, electrical outlets (including a shop selling domestic & industrial sewing machines and overlockers) millions of gold sellers, shoes (if you had feet smaller than a size 5) clothes and anything else any respectable person would want.

Continued up to the Patuxay – pretty impressive building – such a shame though it has never really been finished.  Fabulous views from the top but inside the tower itself is still blank cement with a bit of graffiti.  It really wold be something special if it was cleaned up and even painted.  The ‘park’ around it is pretty and has some of those ‘only in Asia’ signs including one which reads “no passing a grass’ – I suspect that should translate as keep off the grass!

Then off to find some lunch.  There is a little bunch of ‘outlet’ shops along one of the main roads so we stopped for a quick look and I am not the owner of a purple Jimmy (Ainsley are you reading this!)

Lunch near one of the many Traditional Textiles & Handcraft exhibition/stores then back for our afternoon Nanny Naps.  More to come.

Still having trouble accessing the internet from our hotel so am currently sitting sipping an iced coffee and a café that has free wifi – it is not beer-o’clock yet.  Will probably have to add to today’s offering tomorrow when I bring the laptop for a walk.