Sometimes, when you get up in the morning, its easy to be confused about where we are – the streets here seem just like the scenes of Beirut we used to see in the 80’s. Everything just seems a charm-less mess. And it also seems that everything is improvised – take the Toyota Camry above […]Read more "Phnom Penh or Beirut?"
Before heading back to the guest house, we visited the other grim place in Phnom Penh – the shores of Boeng Kak lake, which used to be a pleasant area of lakeside backpacker guest houses in the north of the city. Now though, the buildings have encroached over much of the lake, and sewerage from […]Read more "The other grim side of Phnom Penh"
After the genocide museum we carried on out of the city to view the Killing Fields. This was where the prisoners were taken, before being killed and buried in mass graves. 9,000 skeletons have been uncovered, but a further third of the graves remain untouched. The burial pits themselves, just look like a building site, […]Read more "The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek"
There are lots of different ways to get around Phnom Penh – on the back of motorbikes; in cyclos which are chairs mounted on the front of bikes ridden by old, skinny men; on moped-powered tuk-tuks, or in saloon cars acting as taxis. For the many aid-workers in town, the vehicle of choice is a […]Read more "The gruesome side of Cambodia"
We’re in Phnom Penh, and we can’t make head or tail of the place – there seem to be such wide contrasts. Take our accommodation, Diamond’s Guest House, which is in the centre of the city and handy for the Royal Palace, National Museum, and the restaurants and cafes along the banks of the Mekong. […]Read more "Phnom Penh – a strange city"
There are a number of different ways to get from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, by road or water. Possibly the most picturesque is to travel by fast boat – which takes 6 hours and costs $22 a person – which goes across the huge Tonle Sap lake between the cities, and down the Mekong […]Read more "Moving on to Phnom Penh"
As we saw all of Angkor Wat last time, we must be the only tourists in town who didn’t want to rush straight to the temples! In fact, we’re only stopping off here on the way to Phnom Penh. Last night we found our trusty tuk-tuk driver, Mr Heng, and arranged for him to meet […]Read more "Seeing Siem Reap one more time"
Well, last time we went from Bangkok to Siem Reap, we bought a ticket right through from a Khao San Road travel agent. And while it did get us all the way, it was deliberately slowed down, so that you could be overcharged along the way for your Cambodia Visa, and for your food and drink stops, […]Read more "Heading back to Cambodia – the easy way"
All good things come to an end, and so does our Thailand visa. We’re heading north now, back to Bangkok, where we’re going to head off to Cambodia (again) and Vietnam. And as usual, it’s a multi-part journey which seems to go on forever. We start at 7:30am in the back of a pickup, to […]Read more "Heading back to Bangkok"
Koh Lanta is such a relaxing place, that for a moment it is possible to forget that you’re in Asia – one of the world’s most hectic places! Instead of noise, hustle and hassle, we’re in an oasis of peace and quiet. The children have met some others their own age, and have played cards, […]Read more "Still chillin’ on a tropical island"
Just across the bay from Mae Nam beach lies the island of Koh Pha-Ngan. It is a quieter island than Koh Samui – less developed, less roads and less expensive. It’s famous for the full moon parties held on the main beach at Haad Rin – tens of thousands of backpackers flock there for the […]Read more "Tripping to Koh Pha-Ngan"
Koh Lanta is an island down towards the south of Thailand, on the west coast. Standing on the beach, you can see the silhouette of Koh Phi-Phi (made famous by the film “The Beach”) and other smaller islands rising in the distance. It is almost exclusively a backpackers place, with few tourist-style resorts. The main […]Read more "Koh Lanta – laid-back and blissful"
After we’d been travelling a while, days of the week started to become the same. At home, we’d all looked forward to the weekends, and equally we’d all felt a bit down on Sunday night when it meant tomorrow was Monday morning. But while we’re travelling, ‘weekends’ and ‘weekdays’ only matter because of what everybody […]Read more "Monday mornings"
After just two days on Rai Leh, we decided to move on to Koh Lanta, an island with another beautiful beach, two hours south by boat. Luckily, although the first part of the trip was in a long-tail, this was only out into the bay, to board a bigger boat waiting to take us to […]Read more "Moving on to Koh Lanta"
Krabi province is basically a coastal bay, filled with 200 tiny islands. Although some of these, like Koh Phi-Phi are big enough to have accommodation on them, the majority are small uninhabited lumps of rock and beach, dotted around the bay. Whenever you see pictures of Phuket, you will spot three or four pictures of […]Read more "By long-tail around Krabi"
What a tough way to spend a Friday! In the morning we swam in the pool, then after lunch we walked to Tham Phra Nang beach, one of the three on the Rai Leh peninsula. Although all of the frontage is owned by the Rayavadee Resort, there is a footpath to it for the general […]Read more "Rai Leh and Tham Phra Nang Beach"
Well, all good things come to an end, and that includes our fortnight of R&R on Koh Samui. After two weeks of beach and sunshine, its now time to move on to other parts of Thailand. Our original plan was to head north, straight to Bangkok to catch a flight to Vietnam, but we’ve decided […]Read more "Another day of travel – leaving Koh Samui"
Thailand doesn’t run it’s calendar in the same way that we do in Europe. For a start, today is New Years Day, called Songkran – I’ll explain a bit more about that in a minute. The other thing that is curious about the Thai calendar, from our perspective at least, is that it is 544 […]Read more "Happy New Year!"
Waking up on the beach is quite a wonderful experience – as long as it’s not literally on the beach (well, even that would have been great when we were younger). But today, stepping out of the bungalow onto the sand path and then wandering down to the beach was pretty fantastic. And the beach looked better […]Read more "Koh Pha-Ngan again"
Sightseeing around Koh Samui isn’t all elephants, jungle and beach. There’s only one main road which goes right around the island, and all of the main businesses are lined up along it. Which is handy when it’s hot and dry, and you want to stop for a drink and an ice-cream. In Asia you’re never […]Read more "Around Koh Samui"
For a few days we’ve hired a couple of jeeps to explore the island. Yesterday we drove up the hills in the middle of the island – despite the absence of proper roads, which made it much more interesting! The children loved it all – especially the bumpiest bits, where we were getting the jeeps […]Read more "Sightseeing on Koh Samui"
Apart from Christmas, this is the longest we’ve stayed in one place since we started travelling – and we’ve got another 10 days to go! Its glorious not having to pack up our rucksacks and move on, and we’re quickly slipping into ‘holiday’ mode. We’ve even managed to loosen the purse-strings a little bit, to […]Read more "Life’s a beach"
It’s tough, but somebody’s got to do it. After all, somebody gets up early to put those beach umbrellas and deck chairs there – it would be terrible if nobody used them. And so Caroline and Sarah have taken to them like sand to a beach picnic. From early morning to late in the afternoon, […]Read more "Life on a beach"
Life’s getting better. The children all love the guest house, especially the pool slap bang in the middle of the decking. It’s great for us too – we can watch them swim, while we read our books, or enjoy a drink. And as the rooms are right next door too, it means that the children […]Read more "Enjoying the holiday a bit more…"
Peter and Caroline’s flight arrived in Koh Samui at 10pm last night, after leaving England the evening before, and having a short stopover in Singapore. They were exhausted, and hot, but we all had big welcome hugs at the airport (well, not Peter and I, but who’d want to hug a big, sweaty bloke?). The […]Read more "The Florist – the real guest house"
Fortunately for us, the guest house seemed better when we woke up. After a filling breakfast, we cast a critical eye over it, and tried to see if our friends would like it. In the end, we decided that with a few finishing touches, and a couple of sneaky tricks, it would be okay – […]Read more "Waking up in The Florist"
Our arrival in Samui was fairly easy – the bus and boat connection was dead easy – but once we were on the island, we were in the hands of the local transport mafia. Transport in Samui is notoriously expensive for foreigners, and the minibus operators and taxi drivers were asking 2-3 times what you’d […]Read more "Arriving in Koh Samui"
After a day of ‘hanging around’ the pool at the guest house, we took another sleeper train down to Surat Thani, in southern Thailand. Our desination is Koh Samui, an island off the East coast, where we’re due to meet up with our friends from home – Caroline and Peter, and Charlotte and Emily’s best […]Read more "On the rails again"
After our journey to Cambodia – 16 hours of slow-moving misery – we thought we’d try and make the journey back to Bangkok easier. Although the flight was outside of our budget, we splashed out $30 on a taxi to the border. Instead of 7 hours in the bus, it took us just under 3 […]Read more "Back to Bangkok"
Now that our pass for Angkor Wat has expired, we took the opportunity to drive around the countryside a little further, to see some of the sights away from the temples. As long as we’re on roads, Mr Heng’s tuk-tuk is quite comfortable, but off road it’s definitely a bumpy experience. The tuk-tuk is basically […]Read more "Around Siem Reap"
Cambodia is a country with huge contrasts, as I’ve already said, and our afternoon was a stark example of that. After spending the morning looking around poverty-stricken villages, the girls were invited over to the exclusive hotel for a swim with their new playmates. The hotel tuk-tuk picked them up, and they all took off […]Read more "A study of contrasts"
Our last day at Angkor Wat – our $40/3 day pass expires today, so we set off early again to get the most of our time. We’d chosen two last temples, the first being Preah Kahn (yes, I had to write the names down – there’s no way I would remember all of these tomorrow!), […]Read more "Last call for Angkor Wat"
Somewhat incongruously we went from the Landmine Museum to the Angkor Wat balloon – a huge helium balloon which carries up to 12 passengers 200 metres into the air to get a view of the main Angkor Wat temple and the surrounding forests and fields. We’d chosen sunset to do it, so on one side […]Read more "Floating over Angkor"
Two days ago we visited the Government-owned War Museum, and this afternoon we visited the privately-owned Landmine Museum. Both of them told the same story, of the terrible impact on the country of the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge period, and the continued civil war which ran until 1998. Although the displays focused on land […]Read more "The Landmine and War Museums"
Today’s temple was Ta Prohm, which is the one which has been taken over by the jungle. Although much of the undergrowth has been removed, its still astonishing to see trees growing over, around and through the temple complex. The roots of the trees wind their way between the stones of the walls, and as […]Read more "Tomb Raiding"
The heat in the middle of the day is sweltering, even though we have had lots of time to adjust to Asian temperatures. It reaches around 36 degrees, with no breeze to cool you. Its little wonder that it is typical for people to shut up shop and take a rest in Asia during the […]Read more "Angkor afternoon"
What are we, mad? After an exhausting day two days ago, we got up this morning at 5am to meet Mr Heng and go to Angkor Wat for sunrise. We knew we had to do it, so we thought we should get it done soon. Although lots of people do get up this early to […]Read more "Angkor Wat and Beyond"
We were woken up at 7.30 by the builders on the floor above, knocking a hole in the wall. Just what you need after a long bus trip. At 9 we checked out, and realised that the whole of Siem Reap is a building site. The whole town looks completely unfinished, and on every corner […]Read more "Waking up in a building site"
Well, we can’t say that we weren’t warned – we did know that the overland trip from Bangkok to Siem Reap would be terrible. But we also knew we had no choice – we really, really wanted to see Angkor Wat, and our budget couldn’t stretch to 500 pounds for us to all fly there […]Read more "The longest bus trip in the world"
We had a late start this morning, as the crew came to us for 10 o’clock! So we had time to sit down to breakfast, and read the paper. The Bangkok Post’s Quote of the Day, on the front page, was a rather prescient quotation from Albert Einstein – “Insanity: Doing the same thing over […]Read more "Tuk-Tuk-to-Tuk-Tuk, One More Time"
Another day, another early start. We had to jump out of bed at 5:15, so that we were in a taxi at 6:15, racing across town to get to the BBC’s hotel. Then we all piled into the minibus to go to the floating market at Damnoen Saduak. There are a number of ‘floating markets’ […]Read more "To market, to market, to buy me a…boat"
Today started really early, as we all had to get up at 5:30, to catch a 6:15 taxi to the train station. We were due to catch the 7:45 train out to Kanchanaburi, where the ‘Bridge over the River Kwai’ was built. But first we had to get through a filmed discussion on the platform. […]Read more "A long day out to the River Kwai"
On our second day of filming, we didn’t have much packed down on the agenda, but the traffic in Bangkok makes it so difficult to get around – it takes ages to get between shots. Unfortunately the BBC’s hotel is on the other side of town from ours, so we had to set off at […]Read more "Not getting easier"
Hmm. Here’s a challenge for you – make a factual programme about a family visiting the Bangkok City Palace, without being allowed to film in the Bangkok City Palace. Yup, defeats me too! It turns out that item number one on the schedule was sabotaged by the Thai authorities, who won’t allow filming inside the […]Read more "Bangkok Filming – Day One"
Today was a BIG day – the day we were meeting our director, who will spend the next week filming us around and about Bangkok for the Holiday programme. Ginny’s the director, and the great news was that we had the meeting over lunch at her hotel, so we enjoyed a pretty luxurious lunch in […]Read more "Meeting the Beeb"
We left Chiang Mai on the overnight Special Express train, which leaves at 5 o’clock in the evening, and gets you back into Bangkok at 6 o’clock in the morning. As usual, it was a pretty smooth trip, with comfortable sleeping berths, and a good Thai meal in the restaurant car, looking out onto the […]Read more "Back in Bangkok"
We hired a car and travelled out to the Mai Sai village to visit the Elephant Training camp there (turned out to be cheaper to do that than buy the excursion tickets for 4 of us!). Thailand has got a glut of elephants at the moment, because they have stopped using them to work on […]Read more "The Mai Sai Elephant Training Camp"
Streets in Thailand strike us as completely chaotic, just a mess of vehicles with motorbikes darting in and out constantly. It makes crossing the road a somewhat hit-n-miss affair, but at least the drivers slow down a little when they see a foreign family weaving its unsteady way across their path. One of the amazing […]Read more "The Streets of Chiang Mai"
It seems like ages ago that we arrived in Laos, but in reality it was only 11 days ago. But now we need to leave – our visa only lasts for a fortnight, and we’ve got other things to get to. We had 3 options – the two day slow boat to the Thai border, […]Read more "A week later – leaving Laos"
We’re becoming experts on getting around Luang Prabang (not difficult – there are so few ways to do it, and so few places to go!). Slow boat up the Mekong One of the ways to enter or leave Laos for Thailand is to take the slow boats which ply the Mekong river. Although we’ve declined […]Read more "Getting around Luang Prabang"