Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tha Khet

We decided to get the heck out of Savannahkhet and escaped to Tha Khet.  Tha Khet is a much nicer town! This has meant that we have spent way too much time on buses and with us going to Vientiane it'll be 3 days out of 4 on buses... yuck

Nov 28 – To Tha Khet
This morning we went out in search of an ATM and breakfast. Our low opinion of Savannakhet was not improved by the our morning exploring. What was called romantic with some crumbling french architecture was really just a dump. We quickly found our way to the bus to get a ticket out of there. We purchased a ticket to Tha Khet and Beau zipped off to our hotel to pick up our bags and check out. We spent about 14hrs in Savannahkhet and that was quite enough. Our bus ride to Tha Khet was pretty uneventful although we did stop for an hour at some other bus station so again another slow ride. I think that will be the standard in Laos, buses taking a long time to go relatively short distances. I miss knowing that you it will take you about 2hrs to go 200km. We arrived in at Tha Khet bus station and started looking into getting a tuk tuk. We were talking with some other travellers and got a deal on the ride for all 6 of us. It was a pretty cramped ride. We started looking around for a room, the first two places only had more expensive rooms available but we found one for a reasonable price. We headed to the river front for a snack and got this really delicious pancake/crepe type thing. I don't know what it was made with, the guy used some sort of pastry, looked toffee like, and rolled it out super thin then put it on his grill and cracked an egg into it. Once it was all cooked up he poured condensed milk onto it, YUM! We then went to a restaurant and had a beer while we watched the sun set. While sitting there we saw two guys from the tuk tuk so we went for dinner with them and the other tuk tuk couple. We had a nice dinner together by the river side. We made plans to meet up with them tomorrow morning to discuss going to see some of the caves in the area. We realized when we got back to our hotel our room was right next to a karaoke club. The music was quite loud but some how we were able to sleep, I don't think it was open too late either.

Nov 29 – The Caves around Tha Khet
We met up with the group at the tourist information center, they were interested in going to one cave in particular which is about 7km long and you go through by boat. This cave is also about 200km from Tha Khet and chartering a minibus to go see it was just too big of an expense for us. The other four went ahead with the trip though. After having some noodle soup for breakfast, with not so yummy noodles, we rented a motorbike and decided to check out the caves near the town. The caves we went to were Tham Xang, Tham Pha Pa, Tham Xieng Liap and Tham Nang Aen. We were a little let down by our experiences. The caves we went into were mostly set up as alters and there wasn't much exploring to be had. Near the end of the we went to one which had more facilities but it was also more money to go in and there was the option of renting a boat. We had been let down by the other caves and decided against going in this last one. We just could drum up any enthusiasm to go in. We did go to a lake, Tha Falang, which was very pretty. The water was Caribbean blue, not really sure what made it this colour but it was quite clear. We head back into town and had a much needed shower. The roads were very dusty so we were covered in it. We went to the only restaurant that offered wifi, there were internet cafes though, and got some food and some beers. After eating and catching up on our e-mails and blogs we found the magnificent pancake man again and this time ordered two one with banana and one with egg. We had thought last night there was no way to improve on the deliciousness but the banana proved us wrong. We relaxed by the water front with another beer before heading back to our hotel. Beau and I have rediscovered TV a little but mostly its on the news station. Tomorrow we are going to try to catch an early bus to Vientiane.

Funky looking rock that looked like a face

Inside one of the Caves

Tha Falang, the pretty lake

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Don Det to Savannahkhet

Savannakhet was a big let down we are moving on to Tha Khet. Hopefully it will be much better.  The bus ride was super slow with it stopping every few km to pick up people, scooters and even animals... there was a chicken.  The seemingly disorganized bus ride and having to change vehicles numerous times undid the relaxed feeling I had in Don Det.  Lets hope the next day of travel goes a little more smoothly.  Sorry I didn't really take any photos the past few days.

Nov 26 – Hanging in Don Det
Today was to be a quiet day. We went for breakfast then headed more into town to find some internet. We hung out at a nice riverside restaurant for the bulk of the day. We ran into Gregory breifly while there before he and the girl hopped on a boat to the main land. Mostly we just spent the day catching up on computer stuff and relaxing. It was nice. We tried to go to go watch the sunset at one restaurant but we got there a little late and the menu was quite overpriced. We went to the reggae bar for some beers but it was kind of pathetic as far as reggae bars go. There was no reggae music playing actually there was no music playing period. We moved on to find another restaurant for dinner and then head for an early bed. It was nice to have a quiet do nothing catch up day. We did buy a bus ticket today to go to Savannahket tomorrow, suposed to be a kind of pretty and romantic although a little run down.

Nov 27 – To Savannahket
We've been eating at the wrong places the past few nights. The restaurant attached to our guesthouse, which I hadn't really noticed before, had super cheap food. We ate here for breakfast which was a little cheaper than elsewhere but we could have had dinner last night for half the price. Boooo ahhh well you win some you lose some. We waited at the south west ferry terminal for our boat pick up around 11am. We were the only ones waiting there and were a little nervous about the fast but fortunately a boat showed up to take us to the main land. We had our own private boat although we were without shade on it. From the boat we caught a maxi bus to Pakse. This bus was bigger than a mini bus (a 15 seater van) and smaller than a coach bus (a greyhound). It also lacked air-conditioning but the windows opened and the bags were on the roof. From Pakse we transfered to a bus to Savannahkhet. This bus took a long time to get anywhere. We stoped every 500m for the first 10 km picking up passaengers including 3 motorbikes and a chicken. I don't understand why these people could go to the bus station to be picked up! Honestly! So it took forever to go 200km. We were told we`d arrive around 7pm and arrived at 9:30pm. We were dropped off outside of Savannahkhet and directed towards a jumbo, a pickup truck with benches in the back. The jumbo took us about 300m to another van. We were talking with a Lao girl, around my age, trying to figure out where we were. We found out we were dropped 35km outside of the city center. We were supposed to take the van into town but no one really indicated this to us but fortunately the Lao girl helped us figure this out. We were operating off the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides book and asked to be taken to a guesthouse which turned out to be closed. We were driven to another which was good enough for 9:30pm so we checked in. We then went in search of dinner and got some chicken noddle soup for $1. After this we went back to the hotel and for once turned on the tv. Low and behold there was a movie on so we watched Couple's Retreat before going to bed.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Laos and the 4000 Islands

Don Det has been a great place to recharge for a couple of days.  The quiet island life is exactly what we needed after cramped mini buses and long rides.  So far life in Laos runs at a much more sedate pace we'll have to see if this just island life or if it's like this everywhere.  It would be a nice change from the rest of the hullabaloo that is Asia.

Nov 24 – To Laos
Today we head to Laos. Our minibus picked us up from our hotel at 7am. We were one of the first stops since there was only 1 girl on the bus. As usual we picked up people till the mini bus was full and then some. The problem with mini buses is there is no room for luggage storage. They fill every seat but leave no space for bags. By the end of the pick ups there were 13 of us in a 13 seater mini bus but not everyone had a proper seat. The back seat, which sits 4 had 2 people plus bags, our row which sits 3 had 4 people with Beau sitting on a cushion in between seats, 3 in the row ahead (the older couple had paid extra for another seat but obviously they didn't get it), and 4 in the front with the driver sharing his seat. I think they need to learn about roof racks! It took about 2 hours to reach Strung Treng, we didn't actually go into the city just changed to a big bus to take us to the boarder. We were given visa papers to fill out and entrance/exit cards. We wanted to use our British passports to enter Laos, the visa was $11 cheaper than the Canadian, we were told we couldn't do it. It would be allowed. I think it would have been fine if we were doing the visas ourselves but a guy from the bus collected all the papers and passports and got our visas for us. We had to wait at the boarder while this happened thankfully under some shady tarps then walked across to a new bus which was to take us on to the ferry to Don Det. This ferry ride was infinity quieter than our last one, we didn't get stuck or anything. We arrived on Don Det and went in search of a room. Most places had very basic bungalows with a shared bathroom, we got one for 50,000kip ($6) with our own bathroom and shower. We walked around Don Det into the “town” which didn't take very long. The town is about 1km from our bungalow. We stopped for lunch and then headed back to the bungalow. We lazed about in hammock for the afternoon reading, napping and relaxing. Ahhh the island life. We went off in search of internet and dinner and found both. We ate at a nice little riverside restaurant and were able to use the internet. Most restaurants advertise free wifi since none of the guesthouses have it. So far Don Det seems like a nice little island.

Nov 25 – Don Det and Don Khon
We decided to rent some bicycles today to check out our island and the adjoining one, Don Khon, the two are connected by an old railway bridge. After breakfast we rented bikes from our guesthouse and set off to find an “ATM.” There aren't actually ATM's but you can take money out using your credit card with there credit card machines, we're just hoping this is seen as a sale not a cash advance. We were also thinking about doing a kayaking day trip but it cost abut $20 per person and upon further enquiry didn't sound that great. We biked along the western side of Don Det which was lovely. We stopped to talk to a guy (not sure where he was from Australia, NZ or South Africa) who was building tee-pee bungalows. He's trying to set up his own guest house. When we hit the bridge we ran into a few people who had been one our boat and bus from Strung Treng. The one girl was actually the girl who had been smushed on the mini bus with us, her name was Leah from Switzerland. The other two were Gregory and Loren from Belgium. We went to see Tat Somphamit, or Li Phi Falls, which were pretty nice. They were quite wide not all that high but there was quite the torrent of water flowing through. We walked along the path a ways and ended up in a sandy area where our new friends had gone swimming and met some Spanish dudes as well. It actually wasn't recommended swimming in this area so we headed off to another place with everyone else in tow. The beach was okay but the water was crisp and refreshing. The Mekong is pretty silty right now but we were told it was okay to swim. Beau had gone swimming and forgot he had money in his pocket so he had it all strewn over a bush to dry out. We ate lunch at the little beach side restaurant. The food was good but it was quite slow to get our meal, then again I don't think they normally have to prepare 8 dishes at one time. We headed back to Don Det and took the eastern route this time along the river. We had a little trouble with the bikes with chains falling off and getting stuck but we made it back okay. We had a quick shower then join Gregory, Loren and Leah at their bungalow to watch the sun set. After the sun had set, which was pretty spectacular, we headed to restaurant for some dinner, it also had a snooker table. I can't recall what my dinner was but it was very tasty and pretty spicy. Beau had some sort of Laos dish which pretty much burnt his face off, I think he liked it. Gregory and Beau played some snooker and the Spanish guys were coincidentally at the same place. After dinner and hanging out we headed down to another bar called Pai in Laos. They were open later then most other restaurants. There was a guy who put on a fire show, with a flaming baton and flaming balls on chains. It was pretty cool but a little scary too, you just had to hope he knew what he was doing. After all the excitement and exercise we were quite ready for bed so headed back to our bungalow. The stars are amazing here on the island with so little light pollution!

Beau on his bicycle

A tee-pee bungalow

Tat Somphamit, or Li Phi Falls
At the waterfall

A money bush

Sunset over the Mekong


Thursday, 24 November 2011

Angkor Day 2

Okay so I'm pretty much caught up with this day two post from Angkor. We are now in Laos so internet may be a little spotty sometimes but I'll do my best to stay up to date. We were told it wouldn't work to leave Cambodia on our Canadian passport and enter Laos on our British one. We need to do some research of our own to confirm this because we were told this by a young Cambodian guy who was taking care of our bus load of visas. It did cost us an extra $11 each... boooo. We are now in Don Det a little island on the Mekong. We're going to relax here for a few days because I'm tired of crappy bus rides :P

Nov 21 – Angkor Day 2
This morning, thankfully, had a later start to it with the tuk tuk picking us up around 9am. Our first temple was Preah Khan and our guides favourite temple. To get there we had to get through the chaos of Angkor Thom. Man am I glad we were there much earlier yesterday, it was packed with people. Preah Khan was lovely, definitely one of my favourites too. Our next stop was Preah Neak Pean which was an island temple. There was a long board walk over the water to reach it and no railings. You couldn't go too close to this temple since it was surrounded by water, makes me wonder if it was always this submerged. Our next stop was Ta Som, it had an awesome tree growing over an entrance in such away that the roots formed a second archway. Eastern Mebon was next, it had some great almost fully intact elephant statues at each corner on each level. It was also pretty impressive once you climbed to the top. After that came Pre Rup, there were a bunch of people trying to sell shirts and paintings on the walk up this one. Beau smushed himself into a corner to get this amazing shot of Pre Rup. At Sras Srand, our next temple, there was a huge set of stairs to climb. I had to catch my breath in the shade after reaching the top. It was hot out. We were starting to get templed out but we only had one stop left, Prasat Kravan. There was some construction to hop over to enter the temple site, looked like they were working on drainage. There were some great carvings in this temple and of course some amazing trees. After finishing with the temples we asked our tuk tuk driver to drop us off at the market so we could grab some lunch. After lunch we headed back to the hotel to beat the heat and have a shower. Just down from our hotel there was a local restaurant roasting a whole pig. We've seen this every night and Beau really wanted to try it so we ate dinner there. It was really delicious. We then went to find a bar with happy hour to have another beer before bed. Tomorrow we are off to Kratie and will be on the bus all day... Yuck. 
Preah Khan

Preah Khan

Preah Neak Pean

Ta Som

Eastern Mebon
Beau's awesome pic of Pre Rup

Sras Srang

Prasat Kravan

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Kratie Dolphins

I'm a little behind on my journeling so I figure I'll give you an update on the past few days then post the rest of my Angkor stuff tomorrow! Speaking of tomorrow we are heading to Laos! We took a bus yesterday to Kratie and saw the Irrawaddy dolphins of the Mekong.  We are thinking we'll use our British passports to enter Laos as the visas are much cheaper!

Nov 22 - The bus to Kratie
This morning we caught a bus from Siem Reap to Kratie. The shuttle bus picked us up at 7am and took us to the bus station. It was a long uneventful day on a bus. We had to change buses at one point and they second bus was not as nice as the first. We arrived in Kratie around 5:30pm. We set off looking for a hotel and actually had a little trouble between guesthouses being full, lack of wifi and mosquitoes it was dark before we found one acceptable. After check in we went in search of food and ate at a decent restaurant.  At the end of my dinner a large fat grasshopper type bug jumped from the bushes onto my plate and scared the bejesus out of me.  It then ended up under the table hopping around and on my leg till it was flicked back into the bushes. I may have squawked once or twice. We booked a trip for tomorrow morning to go see the Irrawaddy dolphins.

Nov 23 - Irrawaddy Dolphins
We had another early morning this morning with a tuk tuk pick up at 7:30am. Before heading out we booked our bus and boat for our Laos boarder crossing tomorrow to the 4000 Islands. Our tuk tuk ride took about 30min to get to the dolphin site. Once there we waited around for a little bit in hopes another couple might turn up to split the boat cost with, the price dropped two dollars per person with one more person. No one turned up so off we went just the two of us and our driver. We went up the river a litle ways in hopes of spotting the dolphins. And we did!  They seemed to stay in the area, called Kampi pool.  They are interesting looking with short dorsal fins and more of a beluga whale type head. A couple of them were playing together splashing about. We spent an hour on the water, I probably could have sat there all day trying to get the perfect picture. We were taken back to our hotel with a small side trip an ATM. Once back our hotel suggested we take a ferry across the river to Koh Trong and bicycle around the island. It seemed like a good idea so after lunch we did just that. It was a 9 km bike ride around the island. Its suggested to do this in the morning or late afternoon but  being the fools we are we did it at 1pm. Fortunately it was pretty shady and we has quite the breeze to keep us cool. Our ferry ride back was interesting. The boat was quite full and the wind very strong and we got stuck on a sandbar!  The driver and a tour guide jumped in and tried to dislodge the boat with no luck. Another local guy jumped in too and still no luck. Then they asked for all the guys on the boat to help so Beau and 4 other guys all jumped into the Mekong to get us unstuck. And they did Yay!  It was pretty funny.  Before they asked for help Beau had seen it coming and started emptying his pockets. Fortunately the rest of our day was relatively uneventful. Although we did buy 8 small bananas for $0.25.

The Irrawaddy Dolphin

Dolphins playing

A tail!!

Bike riding on Koh Trong

Beau in the Mekong pushing the ferry!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Angkor Day 1

Nov 20 – Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom
 We were up before the sun and were on our way to see the Temples of Angkor at 5am. We arrived at Angkor Wat, along with many other tourists, and waited for the sun to rise. It was quite spectacular with the sky changing colours as the sun came up. The only things that marred this moment was the scaffolding encompassing part of Angkor Wat and the locals trying to get you to come eat at their restaurant. Once the sun had risen the crowds seemed to disperse and we were able to explore Angkor Wat without too many other tourists. We had brought some longan with us so we had a little break to snack on them. We headed back to the tuk tuk and went on to see Angkor Thom. We got out at the north gate and walked through so we could take pictures then hopped back in the tuk tuk and continued on to the center of Angkor Thom. We saw the Bayon, the Baphuon Temple, the Royal Palace & Phimeanakas, the Elephant Terrace, and the Leper King Terrace. We were starting to tire after seeing all these site but our tuk tuk driver whisked us away to another set of temples. Our next two temples were Chau Say Tevoda and Thommanon. At Chau Say Tevoda there was a man selling temple rubbings. They were very beautiful so we bought a big one for a decent price. Next we went to Ta Keo and then on to Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm was very cool. It's called the jungle temple and was actually used as the set for one of the Tomb Raider moves. One of the coolest things about this temple were the trees. There were massive trees growing out of some of the walls and roofs. The building was built over 800 years ago and the trees would have started to grow on the buildings after Angkor was abandon. It was really cool to see how nature will grow right over top of the things man builds. Our tuk tuk driver still had two temples for us to see today but we put them off till tomorrow. We were quite hungry and footsore, we had been explore temples for about 7hrs and it was only 1pm. We went back to the hotel and just ate their restaurant before having a nap. We headed out to the restaurant area called the Alley and Bar Street. For dinner we had a self bbq dish. There was broth to cook your vegetables in a metal center to cook your meat. Ours had a mixture of meats including snake, beef, chicken, shrimp and alligator. The alligator was very tasty but the snake was tough. It's good to try new things!

Outside Angkor Wat at Sun Rise

Inside Angkor Wat at sunrise
Angkor Wat
North Gate to Angkor Thom
The Bayon

The Bayon

Baphuon Temple

Royal Palace & Phimeanakas

Elephant Terrace
Ta Prohm

One of many trees growing on the temples

Sunday, 20 November 2011

2 Months Gone

It dawned on Beau and I today that we have been traveling for exactly a month! I feels like so long ago we were preparing to set off on our journey.  It's been an amazing two months though and am excited to see what the future has in store for us.  I do think it'll be nice to take two weeks and relax in New Zealand without having to catch a sleeper bus! 
I do have a little Asia rant though, it has become apparent to me that my pet peeve is noisy eaters.  So often I find myself cringing because someone is eating like a cow.  Just chomping away with their mouths open, smacking their lips.  This isn't a trait of any particular social class, gender or age.  It also doesn't matter what they are eating, it could be soup or bread or something completely different.  Why has no one ever taught them to chew with their mouths closed!! It drives me nuts and it is gross to boot.  The main thing that sparked this little rant was on our bus from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh we had just gotten back on the bus after stopping for a pee brake and the Cambodian guy in the row next to me kept smacking is lips and making chewing noises.  He wasn't even eating anything!! I cringed every time.

Nov 18 - Sihanoukville
We had a fairly restless night due to our neighbours thinking they were motorbikes. They were making vrooming noises and security had to tell them to be quiet twice. We were taking it easy today after how busy our last 4 days have been. We stopped by EcoSea and picked up our temporary dive cards then we went to the beach. We spent the afternoon hanging out at a beach bar with $0.50 beers, wifi, and power. We updated our blog/website. We also talked a bunch with one of the guys working at the Bar. He was a very nice Khmer guy named Vida. We told him a bunch of stuff about Canada and explained some English words to him too. It was interesting talking to him. I had a dish called amok for lunch which is a delicious Cambodian coconut curry dish. We caught a bus to Siem Reap around 7 or 8 pm. We were on a sitting bus to Phnom Penh and then had to change buses for a sleeper bus to Siem Reap. The sleeper bus sucked; the seats were fixed and not reclined very much although they were wider than some, the bathroom was gross. It was dirty and you had to flush with a pail of water which took up the entire floor space so it would be very difficult to pee. Needless to say I hung on till we reached our destination.

Nov 19 – Siem Reap
We arrived in Siem Reap around 6 or 7 am. We had been promised a tuk tuk would be there to pick us up but there was not. We paid the $2 fair to take us into the city. Our tuk tuk driver took us to a hotel where we checked out their rooms. The rooms were nice but we wanted to do some comparison shopping. When we went to leave the guy dropped the price to $6 for a fan room so we took it. We then got to talking with our tuk tuk driver about trips to Angkor and we made a deal for 2 days for $25. We lazed away most of the day since we were so tired from our bus ride but it was nice to just read and nap. Late in the afternoon we explored some of the markets and then found a cheap restaurant to eat in. We called it a night pretty early since we were still kind of tired from the night before and we're getting picked up at 5am so we can see the sun rise over Angkor.

Thursday, 17 November 2011


*Pictures posted*
We spent the last 4 days on a tropical island off the coast of Cambodia.  PARADISE!  We started with doing our SSI Open Water Course and ended up doing our SSI Advanced Course.  It was amazing.  We had a total of 9 dives over 4 days.  Our first day we did skills in the shallow part of the bay, our "pool" work, and then had our first open water dive.  The second day we had 3 dives to complete our open water.  We then decided to stay and do our Advanced.  Our third day had 2 dives and the fourth had 3 dives.  We saw some really cool fish, well everything seemed cool to us, such as angel fish, bat fish, octopus, an eel, squirrel fish, wrasse, harlequin sweetlips, filefish, among many others that I can't name.  I now love scuba diving and want to dive all over Asia!! I have posted some pictures below of the island and us in our gear!  Below are my journal entries for the past 4 days!

Approaching Koh Rong Saloem (point on the left)

The fishing village

Ready to get in the water on our first day

Our Bungalow

Going diving on the last day

Yay Diving

Sunset on the boatride back to Sihanoukville

Us with our instructor Anneke

Nov 14 – Shallow sessions, 1 Open water dive
We were picked up at EcoSea at 7:30am and taken to their downtown office where we could drop our big bags and lock up our valuables. From there we headed down to the pier to catch our boat to the island, Koh Rong Saloem. Our instructor, Anneke, was on the boat with us and we spent the two hour ride setting up our scuba equipment and taking it apart again. Once we arrived at the island we got our equipment but first had to do a swim test. We had to swim 200m and then float for 10min, pretty easy. Afterwards we got suited up, wetsuits, snorkel, mask, fins, BCD (buoyancy compensator device), regulator and tank. We climbed, carefully, into the water from the jetty stairs. We swam to a shallow area where we could stand, we were going to be doing our “pool” exercises. We practiced clearing our masks, removing the regulator and other essential skills. We were in the water for about 2hrs and then we had a lunch break. I was quite chilled at this point so it was nice to get out of the water and warm up in the sun. After lunch we were back in the water for more shallow water training. A little later we swapped our tanks for fresh ones and had our first open water dive. This was just on the other side of the jetty on the house reef but it was much deeper than what we had been doing. We practiced some skills and then got to explore the reef. There were a ton of sea urchins, I never knew before that they could walk around. We saw a bunch of fish but I have no idea what they were. I really enjoyed diving. Dinner was delicious and we talked with the other divers and instructors till about 9 or 10pm and then it was bed time. We were quite tired from being in the water all day and had to be up for breakfast at 7am.

Nov 15 – 3 open water dives
We had to do three open water dives today to complete our SSI Open Water Certification. Beau was feeling tired when we woke up but I didn't really think anything of it at the time. Our 1st dive was in a little bay just around the corner from the pier called Angel Fish Bay. We got to do our first boat dive. Another guy Greg joined us for the day to help out. He wants to become a dive master and instructor. We descended using the anchor line and went down to about 12m. We had to practice many of the skills from the first day. Honestly I don't remember too much about this dive as the others sort of took over my memory. Beau was having some trouble equalizing his ears so we took it slow. Back at the surface Beau's ears were still bothering him some. We went back to the jetty just to swap our tanks out and then headed out for another dive. Greg accompanied us again. This time we went to Corner Bar and did a free descent. We saw a chevron barracuda, bat fish, angel fish, parrot fish and many others. Again we had to practice skills at depth. We headed back to the island for lunch. Beau was looking pretty destroyed. We think he got too much sun yesterday in the bay and suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration. We still had one more dive to do and the poor guys ears hadn't really cleared from this mornings dive. Our last dive only had two basic skills to do, only need to go to 5m and stay under for 20min. Beau was able to do it though and he and Greg went back up while Anneke and I stayed under to have a nice dive. We saw many batfish (they like to follow divers around), a big school of Jacks, another chevron barracuda and part of a blue spotted ray, it was hiding under the reef. At this point Beau and I decided to stay on the island and do our Advanced. Beau said he just needed to sleep and he'd be fine. Once back on the island Beau went right to bed and only got up to eat a little bit of food. Poor man was super warm to the touch and just exhausted. His ears hadn't really cleared yet either although Greg had given him some solution to help with it. It was a pretty quiet night on the island for all of us. We all went to bed pretty early although I did read for bit. Hopefully Beau feels better in the morning and is ready for our Advanced :S

Nov 16 – 2 Advanced dives
Beau was feeling much better today after sleeping all yesterday minus the times we were diving. We were only doing 2 dives today. Our first one was Peak Performance Buoyancy. It was just in EcoSea Bay so we went in off the jetty. We had to do different exercises that involved controlling your breathing to maintain buoyancy. We had to “buddha” float, float upside down, float vertically and touch our regulator to the ground without the rest of our body touching. They were very helpful exercises for improving buoyancy control. Our next dive wasn't till after lunch since Anneke had to do a refresher course. So we had some free time to explore. We went into the little village which didn't take long to see. Mostly we were supposed to be studying fish books because our dive after lunch was Fish ID. We headed out to Corner Bar and jumped in the water. The point of this dive was to try to identify fish and corals. Anneke had little water proof slates with different fish seen in South East Asia. I did pretty well with identifying them but Beau not so much lol. We saw all kinds of fish including a file fish which are fairly rare and another blue spotted ray, this time we saw the whole thing. We had some free time before dinner so we cleaned up and relaxed in some hammocks. After dinner two of the guys went for a night dive. When they came back they were so excited about everything they saw so now Beau's really interested in night diving. It was another early night on the island but after being up at 7am and diving all day its okay to go to bed at 8 or 9 pm.

Nov 17 – 3 advanced dives
Today was our last day on the island, booo. We had 3 dives scheduled, deep dive, multilevel computer, and navigation. Our first dive was our deep dive. We had to go deeper than 18m, the Open Water limit. The dive location was called Last Tree and we went down on the anchor line. There wasn't too much to see on this dive, the visibility was quite poor. The whole purpose of the dive was to do some skills at depth. Our max depth was 21.7m. While down there we had to do some exercises to see the effects of the nitrogen in our bloodstream; your think a little slower while down there. Luckily Beau didn't have too much trouble equalizing his ears. We came back up and hopped back on the boat. After picking up some other divers, we headed back to the island to change our tanks. Our second dive was Multilevel Computer. We got to use a dive computer and see how it all works. I was actually wearing it during our deep dive so Beau got to wear it for this dive. The computer tells you the depth, your max depth, how long you can stay at that depth, your nitrogen levels, the water temperature, the dive time and your ascension rate. We were diving at Corner Bar again and had to stay at several different depths. It was cool to use the computer. We also saw lots of fish. We had about 17 bat fish around us at one time. They follow you around when your diving silly things. We also saw a Harlequin Sweetlips, some angel fish, squirrel fish among others. It was a very nice dive. After lunch we had our we did Navigation. We started on land working with a compass and then went into the water off the jetty. We had to figure out how many kicks we did over 30m to find our kickcycle. Then we had to swim for 10 kickcyles and come back using visual points of reference, I wasn't very good at that. We had to do the same thing using a compass and then also swim in a square and a triangle. While diving we got to see a little octopus! Even saw it change colour! We got out of the water and cleaned our gear. We got ourselves cleaned up and got on the boat back to the mainland. We were sad to leave the island but I think if I stayed any longer I would never want to leave. The boat ride back was very relaxed and the ocean very calm. Once on the main land we got in the back of a truck and picked up our bags at the downtown EcoSea office. There we said good bye to Anneke. We were taken to the EcoSea beach office and had to fill out some paperwork and pay for our Advanced course. The computer was going very slow so we said we'd come back tomorrow for our temporary dive cards. We now had to go find a hotel. The one we stayed in before was apparently full so we headed to another. We were asked if we wanted a tuk tuk and said no but the guy would take us to the hotel we were going to anyways for free. We had to take a bit of a round about route so it might have been faster to walk. The hotel seemed fine and it was already 7pm and we needed to eat. We checked in and headed to the beach for dinner. We booked our night bus ticket to Siem Reap for tomorrow night. At dinner we had our first beer in 3 days and bbq. We went to bed early since we were pretty wiped from 4 days of diving.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Killing Fields and Sihanoukville

We took a tuk tuk to the Killing Fields one day and then a bus to the beach.  We plan to get open water certified while in Cambodia. One of the biggest differences we've seen between Cambodia and Vietnam and China is the amount of beggars. We saw very few in China and Vietnam, although in Vietnam there was always some trying to sell you something and it was usually an adult.  Here in Cambodia we've seen numerous beggars, many of which are amputees, and there have been tons of kids trying to sell you books or bracelets. Makes you wonder whether it has anything to do with the first two countries being communist or just that Cambodia is so much poorer.

Sorry I haven't posted pictures this time, I haven't uploaded them from my camera and my computer is acting up.

Nov 11 – The Killing Fields
This morning we hired a tuk tuk to take us out to the Killing Fields, also known as The Choeung Ek Genocidal Center. We contemplated renting a motorcycle for the day but it wasn't too much more to hire a tuk tuk. The tuk tuk ride was much more comfortable than the motorcycle would have been as if had nicely cushioned seats and the roads were pretty rough. The entrance feel at Choeung Ek also included the audio tour which really added to the museum. This wasn't your typically museum as you walked around a park like area listening to the atrocities that occurred. Prisoners held in Phnom Penh during the Khmer Rouge's reign were taken taken here to be killed. Bullets were considered too expensive to use so the soliders used what ever means available. During the 3 years and 8ish months the Khmer Rouge held power they killed 2-3 million people out of a population of 8 million. Now there is a Memorial Stupa at the center of Choeung Ek that holds the skulls and large bones of all the people who have been unearth. There are still many bodies that have been allowed to lie in peace. This was another place I did not know much about but I am thankful for the audio tour. It was very informative about what had occurred during this time period. As awful as it was to hear about all these deaths I'm glad we visited one of the over 300 killing fields in Cambodia. This is another period of genocide in the worlds history that isn't taught in school but is important to learn about. It's amazing how far Cambodia has come after so many years of strife. After the Killing Fields we had our driver drop us off at the Central Market where we found some lunch. We needed to book a bus to Sihanookville so we headed back to the hotel. The bus prices were all the same and we were able to be picked up from the hotel. The rest of our afternoon was spent relaxing at a riverside bar with some beers. We found some cheap delicious food a couple of blocks down from our hotel. We retired to our room fairly early but didn't go to bed early enough, I read while Beau worked on the computer.

Nov 12 - Sihanoukville
We got on a bus this morning to Sihanoukville. We were picked up by a shuttle bus to take us to the station.  Along the way we picked up a bunch of passengers some of which had to sit on the floor.  Our bus ride took about 4 hours and was pretty sedate compared to most other bus rides we've had, no crazy passing or swerving around pot holes or if there was it made no impression on Beau and I! It started to rain when we reached Sihanoukville but fortunately when it started to pour we were safetly under cover in a tuk tuk which we shared with  2 Swedish guys.  We looked into a couple of hotels and got a private room for $7 without hot water or AC.  That seemed the norm of the budget places and we're cheap so who are we to complain.  After checking in and getting some lunch we started checking out scuba options.  We went to 3 different dive shops all of which offered similar PADI Open water options for about $300.  One place also offered SSI Open Water which was only $255, the courses are very similar and are both internationally accepted so we opted for this one.  We also liked this dive shop the best, EcoSea.  We signed up, put down a deposit and were given our books.  We headed down to the water to check out the beach and see about some dinner.  The beach was just lined with restaurants all selling the same things, $0.50 Draft beer and $3 BBQ.  For the BBQ you could get any three meats from beef, chicken, pork, shrimp, squid, and fish.  Beau and I both opted for the shrimp, squid, and fish and Beau got his with rice and I had garlic bread with mine.  We got quite a lot of sea food and it was all very tasty, cooked with loads of garlic.  We headed back to our hotel to start doing some reading for our Scuba course tomorrow, we did have to stop in to EcoSea because the book they had given me was in German.  As much as I want to learn a second language I don't care to do it while learning to dive.

Thursday, 10 November 2011


We`ll we arrived safe and sound in Cambodia yesterday.  The boat ride here was not as nice comfortwise as I thought it might be but it did the trick.  So far Phnom Penh has been very nice.  At night it is lit up like a Christmas tree and the streets are full of people, this is probably do to Independence day and the Water Festival.  The Water Festival was technically cancelled so while the boat races aren`t happening there are still some concerts going on and I guess there are less people here than there would have been.  What is interesting is how different the Cambodians look from the Vietnamese.  The Cambodians have much rounder eyes and look more India where as the Vietnamese have more slanted eye and look more Chinese.  It`s amazing how much people can change over a few hundred kilometers.

Nov 9 – The Mekong to Cambodia
We were up early again this morning, we breakfasted and met up with a new group of people who were taking the slow boat to Cambodia. After talking to a few people it seemed that one of the fast boats had been cancelled but some people hadn't been informed they were now taking the slow boat. I felt bad for these people because they had paid extra but hadn't even been told what was happening. We walked down to the river and prepared to board the boat. We had to wait around for a bit while the guide collected our passports, counted them, fretted that it wasn't the right number, than gave them back. We finally got on the boats, which were fairly small although reasonably comfortable. We went to a fish farm, which was essentially an enclosure below a floating house that raised fish to sell to the fisheries. Next we went to a Cham Minority house. The walk way from the boat was very sketchy, just pieces of wood nailed together, supported by some bamboo now and then. Our guide informed us that we should spread ourselves out over the walkway but not until one girl (smaller than me) had broken through the walk way and fell into the water. The two girls after her got very wet as well. This information would have been much more useful before we got off the boat. The home we went to was really just a scarf shop and had a loom to “show” us how scarfs are made. It was a little lame. We got back on the boat and continued on for awhile. While on the boat our guide had us fill out our visa information cards and collected our passports, pictures and fees to get Cambodian visas. It was $20 for the visa, $2 for paper work and $0.50 for the guide to take care of it all. We gave everything to the guide and he disappeared off the boat to take care of things while we continued along. We reached the Vietnamese boarder where we stopped for a bit to have lunch and wait for our guide to complete the visa process. Lunch was very over priced so Beau and I stuck to noodles and vegetables. After lunch and waiting around we got on a different boat to take us into Cambodia. This new boat sucked. We had wooden benches to sit on, barely enough room for everyone and the motor made the whole boat vibrate something fierce. Also it sat very low in the water. We stopped shortly after to go through the Cambodian boarder check point, while there Beau picked up a beer for the boat ride and I got some Winter Melon pop, it was weird, not bad but not necessarily good. We spent about an hour total on this boat but it seemed an eternity. My teeth were rattling around it vibrated so badly. We pulled up on the ground and there were mini buses waiting for us. We didn't understand how we would all fit in these buses but there were some seats in the back that folded down. The “trunk” space was used for seating not storage. All the bags were some how crammed into a space between the driver and the first set of seats which were rear facing. There were 13 of us crammed in the back of the bus. We had to keep an eye on the bags to make sure they didn't come crashing down on us! We had to stop shortly after we had gotten underway and get off the bus to walk a little ways. A large section of the road had been completely washed out and the driving area was quite muddy so the driver didn't want us to get stuck. Fortunately the Mekong has receded and there were no other section like this, the road was surprisingly good. We arrived at a bus station in the south of Phnom Penh and our next step was to get a tuk tuk, a motorcycle pulling a 4 seat carriage. We shared a tuk tuk with a dutch couple and the driver said he knew a cheap hotel so he took us there and the hotel seemed reasonable so we stayed. Our tuk tuk driver wanted our business for our stay in the city so he gave us a free ride to a no fee ATM. Right next to where this ATM was was a night market so we found some cheap noodle bowls for dinner with the Dutch couple, Bob and Rianna. While eating we heard some loud noises which we attributed to fireworks. It is Cambodian Independence day and the Water Festival. We headed back towards our hotel, there was a park near by that was done up for the Independence Day and had a live concert going on. We turned in after a little while for an early bed time, we were pretty wiped after our travel day.

Floating Shanty House

Me on the sketchy walk way

Our crammed vibrating boat

The washed our road

Nov 10 – Phom Penh
Thankfully we were able to sleep in this morning...sort of. I woke up at 6:20 but went back to sleep for about an hour. By that time we were both awake. This was perfect timing to skype Mom and Dad though! We had a nice chat for about an hour and then Beau and I got on with our day. We had it in our head to check out the Royal Palace and the Central Market. We were informed though that the Palace would be closing for lunch at 11-2:30pm, so we headed to the market first. We had a nice walk along the river which is lined with all the world flags or at least most of them. From there we headed to the Central Market. This market is huge! It in a big building with stalls surrounding it outside. Beau and I both picked up some new clothes. I bought a turquoise quick dry t-shirt for $4 and a pair of comfy jersey cotton capris for $3 and Beau got another quick dry t-shirt for $4. It's tempting to restock our whole wardrobe but not necessary. We had lunch here which consisted of fresh shrimp spring rolls (would have been better if the shrimp had been shelled) and some shrimp, pork filled crepe which was yummy. We headed back to the hotel so I could put on pants to go to the Royal Palace. By the time we were going to head out again it was 3:15 and our receptionist informed us that you really needed 3hrs to explore it properly, it closed at 5, and it cost $6 for entry. We decided against the palace after that and head to find some cheap beers. We found a place that had draft beer for $0.50 so we had a couple and then headed to the market from last night to have some cheap food. We finished dinner right as the fireworks started so we hurried back to the water front to watch them. Afterwards we grabbed another beer then headed back to the hotel. While in the restaurant we were approached by some guys looking for donations to help a primary school. We didn't want to just give them money in case it was a scam but we got the guys info and will pick up some school supplies and donate them instead. On the way back Beau tried one of the dumpling type things, we think it was filled with bean sprouts, and I bought some popcorn which is more like Kettle corn so it was sweet but good. We are going to the killing fields tomorrow but hopefully we'll get to sleep in a little before we head out.

A pretty traffic circle in Phnom Penh

A temple

Fireworks over the river