A Travellerspoint blog

Sydney

sunny 33 °C

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You know you have well and truly left South East Asia when the mineral water you buy at Sydney Airport costs more than a nights accommodation in a beautiful Thailand national park. Crikey!

We arrived at our hostel, The Traveller's Rest, and collapsed in a tired heap. Totally knackered after taking full advantage of Singapore Airline's excellent entertainment system = lots of films and no sleep. We emerged at dusk and wondered down to the Harbour Bay for a glimpse of the bridge and Opera House. Here we are. Australia.

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Keen to blend in with the locals we found a dive bar with some live music and tucked into beer and kangaroo burgers for dinner (Katie inhaling her first glass of Australian white). The local guitarist gave us a Proclaimers rendition on learning Katie's heritage - not a bad Scottish accent either.

We had two days in Sydney before picking up our camper-van and heading north. After our free breakfast of, you've guesssed it, Butter-Jam-Toast (seems some things are universal) we strolled through the Botanic Gardens (see last scene of Mission Impossible II) to catch a ferry to Manly. Manly is a suburb of Sydney where our friend Lesley lives. Due to budgetary constraints in Oz, self-catering will be the order of the day, so we were delighted to spot an Aldi as we got off the boat. 1kg of pasta quills $1 - thank you Aldi. We then headed off for a walk along the sceneic coastal path. It was scenic - georgeous views of the bay looking out to sea.

We met up with Lesley for a pint afterwards before heading back on the ferry into a beautiful sunset.

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On our walk back to the hostel Katie asked what the birds were swooping over the city. On closer inspection it turned out to be our friends the Fruit Bat (see close run in at Singapore Zoo). However hardened by our bat-cave exploration we were non-too fazed. Pasta and sauce for tea.

Day 2 in Sydney and we hit the beach, Bondi to be precise. Probably the second most famous beach in the World after 'The Beach'. Katie settled in for first Australian sun-bathing session. Afterwards we took in another scenic coastal walk - they like these in Australia - before a bus back to town. Slap up dinner of pasta and sauce.

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Day of departure and heated debate as to what to name our van. We are renting from a company called 'Jucy' who provide bright green campers, and after our friends Charlie and John adopted the name 'Jucy Lucy' for their van, we were left in a rhyme vacuum - what other names rhyme with Jucy??. That was until Katie ingeniously remembered the name of a certain popular athlete of the 90's - Ladies and Gentleman, we give you 'Jucy Akabusi'. However, naming was not to be so simple. Katie had mistaken Chris Akabusi for the boxer Chris Eubank, who she thinks is cooler because he walks with a cane and does Jaguar impressions (WTF!). She has since insisted the van be called 'Jucy Eubank'. The debate rages - we leave it to you, the good people, to settle the matter. Jucy Akabusi or Jucy Eubank - you decide.

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Posted by tomkat2010 19:13 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Ayutthaya- Bangkok and goodbye Asia

We had decided to break up our trip to Bangkok with a final temple hit, so we spent a day and a half in Ayutthaya. It was good and fun to cycle round. The city is covered in temples and we visited a handful.

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Then to Bangkok and back to Evan and Susan! It was lovely to see them again and catch up on the last few weeks. Wedding preparations are well under way and we wish them all the best for the big day!!!

We had some final sight-seeing, including a huge golden Buddha, as well as shopping and washing (thanks guys!)

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We also met up with Ban, Tom's friend from Leicester restaurant days, who we bumped into in a Supermarket a few weeks back - as you do. Turns out he now owns a huge restaurant a few blocks away from Evan and Susan and has opened a new pub just around the corner. Ban kindly provided dinner for us and we caught up over a few drinks in the new pub - Room 9 - great place if you are ever looking for a watering hole in the Ramkhamhaan district of Bangkok! A lovely way to spend our final evening in South East Asia. Obviously very sad to be leaving but are already planning our next trip- Northern Thailand and Laos!

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Evan and Susan...and chick

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Tom and Ban

Posted by tomkat2010 19:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Khao Yai National Park

Making good use of our rabies jab.

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After a long and surprisingly smooth journey we arrived in Khao Yai national park, or more accurately the small town outside it and the head quarters of Green Leaf Tours. We opted for the day and a half park visit which started the following afternoon and allowed us a well deserved lie-in.

Rested and in better spirits we hopped into the back of a van with another Dutch couple and headed on the first half of the tour. On the way to our first stop, fresh water swimming, the van came to an abrupt stop and we were instructed to jump out. The guide had spotted a white squirrel in the trees. It was pretty big, and I suspect could have taken on any grey, red or even a small dog for that matter.

The swim was lovely and refreshing and, even though it was totally placebo, I think the minerals did us good (hmm??).

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Next stop: the bat cave. Imagine what a visit to a bat cave might involve - let your imagination go wild. What you are imagining is pretty much what happened. We climbed into this cave and with our torches pointing at the floor, we walked into a cave with a couple of thousand bats in it. Gross. Actually it was pretty exciting when we were allowed to look up, and Tom opted for the optional "see a bit closer" option which turned out to be going to a really low part of the cave and having the young 'learner' bats fly at him. As I waited with my fellow wuss, she told me about a dutch lady who had died last year due to a bat disease she picked up on a visit in Asia. Fantastic. Apparently the guano is worth a small fortune, but we decided against scooping some up - not sure what the australian customs would have said seeing as though you have to declare shells!

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Anyway, we also spotted a tarantula and Tom had a variety of creepy crawlies placed on him. It was quite funny actually, whenever the guide spotted any kind of horrible and massive bug he pick it up and place it, without consent, on Tom. "hahaha not very poisenous" he would say as a means of reassurance. Not really the point but never mind.

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After re-emerging from the cave we headed for the main event. Another bat cave. But this was no ordinary bat cave; you are not allowed in this cave and so we stood outside and looked up at the mouth of the cave. And waited. And waited. And looked at the eagles circling above the cave. And watched an idiot tourist trying to climb up close to the mouth of the cave and get in trouble. And then, they came out and it was incredible. The most recent estimates suggest that there are around 2 million bats there, but I think there must be at least 10! They came flocking out and flew over-head, it was spectacular to watch. Our guide showed us how sensitive to noise they are by very quietly making a squeaky noise and thus making the bats scatter temporarily. Instantly they reformed so as to avoid being picked of by the eagles.

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Having thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon we were full of anticipation for what the next day might hold.

Day two started well and got better. White and black gibbons were spotted...

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...we trekked in the jungle...

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...and visited the waterfall from the jump scene in the "beach"....

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At each stop we would see poo, and "tracks" of the elephants (more like paths of destruction), but no actual elephants. Bugs, scorpions, and a fruitless crocodile hunt later we started to think that we would not be seeing any elephants today. We were hoping for something like this:

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But all we were getting was this:

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And plenty of this:

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It was around dusk when we pulled up to our guides last attempt to see if we could find one of the 200 wild elephants in the park; it was a national holiday in Thailand so the park was slightly busier than normal, so we thought the odds were reduced.

Then we started to hear some trumpeting and the guide said that there was a group nearby. We started to ask the guide about the elephants and what we should do if we see one. "If it runs at you, you must run. It is a wild animal, you run for your life" he replied. He then told us about some tourists who were killed by elephants in the park. He then said with a sense of urgency, but not wanting to raise his voice: " Elephant!! Elephant!! Run!!!!" At this point it wasn't clear whether we were running to or from an elephant, but we ran, and we ran quickly. Thankfully, we were running to the elephant. And we were lucky to see, in the distance a young male having a bath at the salt lick. Check this out:

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See it? Well how about this shot taken with the aid of a telescope:

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Amazing and the comedy timing of the sighting and the story was quite something. It was a total highlight of the trip so far.

On the way back to the van one of our group kept saying that he could hear more trumpeting but that it was louder. "The next two elephants I see will be on a bottle of Chang" Tom muttered, but it was not to be. As we bragged about our lone elephant spot to some other tourists we ran in to in the car park, they casually replied "What, so you didn't see the group of 27 that passed through fifteen minutes ago?". Shit. Dived back in the van and hammered it back down the road in the gathering gloom and there they were!!!! We saw around 15, including babies, from the back of the van. Spectacular. They were literally on the side of the road, we could have touched one, I mean we would have died but we still could have! Unfortunately, our photos of this sighting aren't great:

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but we are hoping that a member of our group with a fancy night-camera setting e-mails us his shots as promised. It was amazing and we would totally recommend Green Leaf tours!

Posted by tomkat2010 18:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Ko Chang

sunny

After a long day travelling we arrived in Ko Chang and our hearts sank a little bit. Having been spoilt by the quiet in Cambodia, Ko Chang seemed built up, western and just not our cup of tea at all. It was slightly better where we were staying as we'd opted for the "quiet" part but not much. There was also an absence of Papaya salad which confirmed that this was not the place for us. There was an option to stay on a island of the coast which has we had more time we would have opted for, and you can also hike in the jungle, which probably would have provided us with the calm we wanted, but we decided to cut our losses, save some money and head on an elephant hunt instead.

Posted by tomkat2010 18:02 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Phnom Penh - Angkor Watt

Reid's on Tour

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After leaving our island paradise we headed back up the road to Phnom Penh. Again. Just one day here to see the sights. We visited The Killing Fields (you may have heard the name from the film) and S21 detention centre - both sombering reminders of the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror. To lighten things up we decided to visit the Royal Palace in the afternoon. Unfortunately Katie was dressed like a tramp with her shoulders fully on display for all to see, so we were denied access. Efforts to cover up using a shawl were swiftly denied by a stern lady pointing to the 'no shawls' sign. Of course, because Tom is a man, he could probably pranced through the entrance in nothing but a thong and no-one would have batted an eyelid - people might even have applauded. So that was that and instead we headed back to the Foreign Correspondants' Club for Happy Hour.

Up early and on the coach to Siem Reap. We rejected a breakfast of baguette with something hairy in it purchased just before boarding and arrived hungry but unscathed to our hotel - where a certain Mr Reid was waiting. Reids on tour went international, AND we had an internet date booked with eldest Reid to complete the group. I know what you are thinking- the banter must have been electric. It was; people were exploding all around us as they over heard our conversations. Oh how we laughed...

We booked a Tuk-Tuk for a dawn trip to Angor Wat (the big temple that features on the Cambodian Flag) and headed into town. Mathew so enraged one of the local street booksellers with his cold 'i'm not interested' stare that it prompted the young seller to reposte with an insult so awful we were rendered speechless..."YOU BLUE EYES". He was so mad that he kept on repeating it every time he passed for the next half hour. That's not how you make friends.

Ugh...5am and were bumping along in the pitch black for our dawn raid on the temple. It seemed that we weren't the only ones with the same idea and we joined the crowd to watch the sun appear behing the amazing ruins. It was here that we were served noodles by Justin Beiber.

The sun appeared briefly from behind some clouds and all in all it was pretty spectacular.

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The next site we visited was Bayon- a close contender for favourite.

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It was pretty spectacular.

The next day we visited the site ( name to be confirmed) which is covered in huge trees which have grown around and sometimes through the temples themselves- this was the winner! The trees were absolutely huge!!! HUGE I tell you.

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On our final day we hired bycycles to return to our old favourites Angkor and Bayon- pretty sweaty work but brilliant fun and highly recommendable. Here are the boys making their way through the gate at Angkor.

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Good time had by all. AND we were introduced by Matthew to our new favourite card game.....golf! And so, with our heads full of temples it was time to say good bye to baby Reid as he returned to China and we headed west on the hunt for Papaya salad.

By the way, apologies for the delay in the posting. Yes, we are now in Australia, but for the purposes of blog, we are now heading back to Thailand. We will endeavour to catch up over the next week.

Posted by tomkat2010 18:38 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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