Friday, January 28, 2011

Nong Khai

Taro bread We were super excited about being back in Thailand and being able to visit that most traditional of cultural establishments, 7-11, which is filled with all our favourite tasty stuff like purple taro bread, 5 baht bags of coffee sweets and weird little pots of mysterious coconutty desserts. However, it still took us about three days to realise that there was one just around the corner from our hotel in Nong Khai.

Nong Khai is just over the border, about 20km from Vientiane and a bit further along the river. You can wave at Laos on the other side of the river and watch boats carrying boxes of stuff (Beerlao, we hoped) between the two. It shares Vientiane's lovely red sunsets, although they're not over the river.

It's not a very touristy town and is a little weird, having been relatively recently formed from a number of villages so there's no real town centre. The riverside is developed into an attractive promenade lined with cafes and restaurants, and dotted with pleasant shelters where you can sit peacefully and read a book all afternoon.

Nong Khai (21/365)
Further in from the river there are excellent food markets and cheap restaurants - lots of barbecues (including an excellent chicken roasting machine using lots of cogs and bike chains to rotate the chickens). We found ourselves a new pancake lady and learned the Thai word for "four" (we had previously only got as far as three) by ordering two small round sugared pancakes each. She also taught us the word for that kind of pancake so we didn't have to make rounded shapes with our hands any more. Another stall served us the most excellent pad thai.

Sadly, Nong Khai is rife with elephant begging - every evening, mahouts drive their elephants into the city and walk them through busy areas, selling sugar cane and bananas so you can have a chance to feed them. One of the things we learned at Elephant Nature Park was that elephants' feet are very sensitive to vibrations in the ground, which they use to communicate and detect danger. Once you understand this, and have learned about the cruel processes use to "break" an elephant to make it obedient, it can be quite upsetting to see these creatures in the city, often babies without their mothers, constantly overstimulated by vibrations from traffic, whimpering and completely subservient.

If you're visiting Thailand or anywhere that has elephants, please don't support this practice. Elephants need to eat hundreds of kilograms of food every day and you are not helping it by feeding it a couple of bananas - you are most likely doing it a disservice by making it financially worthwhile to bring it into the city. There are plenty of places where you can hang out with happy elephants, and by supporting those places instead you increase their capacity to help more of the sad ones.

Elephant dude on a rat (25/365) We spent several days lounging around in Nong Khai. On our last evening there we took a tuk-tuk out to Sala Keoku, a statue park on the outskirts of the city. Some small, some gigantic, many of the statues can only rightly be described as bizarre or a bit trippy. My personal favourite was a man with an elephant face sitting on a giant rat with hands.

Finally we got the sleeper back to Bangkok for a few more days of this crazy city. Yesterday I took the canal boat into town, wandered around getting lost for a bit and then visited two of the major temples, Wat Po (featuring what is possibly the world's largest reclining Buddha) and Wat Arun, (I climbed up the outside but it really toes the line between "seriously steep staircase" and "actually just a scary ladder with handrails")

In the evening we met up with our friend Matt, who we met in Phnom Penh, and took the lift up to the 64th floor (it's odd seeing numbers that high on a lift counter) of State Tower, the second highest building in Bangkok - there's a bar at the top where they charge 6 quid for a Coke and it doesn't even come in a gold-plated can, but does include spectacular views. Dgym had some vertigo moments but did very well.


Sorry, we've been very bad about blogging for the last couple of weeks.

Turboprop (19/365) We flew down to Vientiane, capital of Laos, in a tiny little turbo-prop plane which was quite cool. It's only a couple of hundred kilometres but would have been a ten hour bus journey - we were sick of buses, even split into two five hour journeys it seemed too much. We made enquiries about a four day cycle tour that covers the journey, but it turned out to be insanely expensive. It was a shame to miss the pretty mountain scenery south of Luang Prabang, it looked nice from the air.

Vientiane started out with a long hot trek around town at midday, my backpack now a bit heavier thanks to all the market shopping. We found and rejected lots of expensive rooms, and lots of cheap ones that smelled bad before finding one that was moderately priced and not smelly.

Vientiane is very chilled for a capital city. It's next to the Mekong river but not quite on it. At first it appeared to be a very long way from the river, then we realised that it's the dry season and the huge flat sandy bit is probably a huge rivery wet bit for much of the year. On top of that, there's an extra couple of hundred metres of land which is currently being landscaped into a park, and a levee behind that to protect the city against flooding.

Red sunset It also has some of the most consistently fantastic sunsets I've seen anywhere - the sun dims and changes colour as it drops over the river, until it becomes a large red disc and sinks into the haze a few degrees above the horizon. I walked out across the sandy riverbed one evening, ending up with several spoonfuls of fine dusty sand in my trainers, and was rewarded with a lovely peaceful spot in which to watch the sunset.

We headed away from the river in the evenings and bought our dinner from the night market, coming away with delicious curries, sticky rice, barbequed meats, steamed leafy green veg and larger savoury versions of the little rice treats we'd found in LP. (We have since found out that these are called Khanom Krok and are also available throughout Thailand).

There was also what looked like a dessert stall selling various interesting looking cake-like things. I pointed and asked "All sweet?" The vendor nodded, which turned out to be approximately half right. Among our selection of goodies, one contained a sliver of alarmingly pink sausage. Another, to our delight, was an exact miniature version of a Cornish pasty. The shape, taste and smell were spot on!

Hotel breakfast was typically grim but we went a couple of doors down to an excellent French bakery and coffee shop - what with spending so little on our market dinners, we felt justified in splurging a little bit on fancy pastries and coffee first thing.

Pha That Luang (20/365) We walked out to visit the giant gold stupa one day, it's the national symbol of Laos and is pictured on the bank notes. It turned out not to be made of solid gold or even gold plated, just painted with gold paint and also quite dirty - but it was a fun trip and we also passed Vientiane's concrete equivalent of the Arc de Triomphe.

After a couple of days we caught the bus across the river over the Friendship Bridge, back into Thailand, we were unloaded once for exiting Laos and once again for entering Thailand at the other end of the bridge, passing lots of scary signs about all the horrible things they will do to you if they find bad stuff in your bags. We were excited about coming back into Thailand again but it also felt like we were beginning our journey home. I do hope to see more of Laos at some point - there's plenty more to see but we also wanted to spend some more time in Thailand.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Luang Prabang

We flew out of the tiny airport at Siem Reap (it had a temple-style tiled roof and peaceful little garden inside) and landed at the tiny airport in Luang Prabang. We've been flying a lot more than envisaged on this trip, having evaluated the alternative as being two days of overland travel including a sleeper train plus 15-20 hours of bus time, not something we were willing to consider at this point.

Lovely LP (14/365) Having heard many good things about Luang Prabang, we were excited about arriving and it did not disappoint with its fantastic mountain scenery, beautiful temples, wooden houses and gorgeous night market.

It didn't start out brilliantly for us - we found a cheap guesthouse which seemed good until we switched the fan off and realised it smelled a bit of wee, then we were kept up into the small hours by noisy Aussies (in those wooden houses you hear everything) and woken early by construction work. Dgym was feeling ill the next morning and we had to find somewhere with a nicer bathroom in which he could comfortably hurl. We found a similarly priced much nicer place tucked away in a quiet sidestreet and not made of wood, and we slept better after that. Dgym recovered quickly, but still lost a day of valuable eating time.

In the meantime I was exploring the town. On the first day I had a Thai/Lao body massage which aims to encourage flexibility - certainly not the relaxing kind, I spent an hour being pummelled and contorted around as the masseur attempted to push my limbs into various poses and also to pull all my fingers and toes off. Unfortunately I have ticklish knees and couldn't keep in the giggles as she worked on my legs.

Nam Khan (16/365) At Luang Prabang, the wide Nam Khan tributary flows into the enormous Mekong river. A rickety bamboo footbridge spans the Nam Khan for half the year - it is rebuilt every year after the rainy season. On the other side is a small river beach from which you can wade out to a sandy island in the middle. I crossed very carefully one afternoon, unplanned and with a bagful of camera and other vital non-waterproof stuff on my back, hoping the current wouldn't knock me over backwards and dunk the lot. I sat on the island and watched local boys dart back and forth across the same stretch of water, then took some pictures to justify risking my stuff like that.

My favourite thing about Luang Prabang was the night market. It sets up on the main street at dusk - walk through at the right time and you will hear the monks drumming as the sun drops in the sky and the vendors set up their tents, hanging paper lanterns, laying out rows of silk scarves and bags onto mats on the ground as well as more dubious items such as animal teeth and bottles of snake whiskey (that's whiskey with a snake in it).

This was where I had my best ever Christmas shop. No icy cold wind, no crowds of stressed out shoppers and best of all no cheesy christmas music. The seller sits on the ground behind their goods, and hands you a low stool to sit opposite from which to view scarf after scarf, examining different colours, textures and fabrics - no rush.

Night Market (18/365) After the choice is made, the haggling begins. I've had mixed feelings about haggling on this trip - generally we haven't done it much, reasoning that the discount probably makes a lot more difference to the seller than it does to us (plus we're uptight and British and quite simply not used to it). However, prices are often given with the expectation that you'll try to negotiate it down and I sometimes can't help feeling like I'm depriving the seller of their favourite sport. I very much got into it that evening, sometimes placing an initial offer at about 75% of theirs, sometimes aiming for a particular figure so pitching a fair bit below that. Sometimes they'd meet my final offer, sometimes I'd meet theirs. Nobody pays more or accepts less than they're comfortable with, everybody has a little fun and it adds a little extra human interaction and challenge to the sale.

Hungry after a good shopping session, I met up with Dgym and we headed to the tiny sidestreet filled with lots of tasty food stalls and also some not so tasty-looking ones that sold pretty much every part of a chicken you can imagine and some you probably can't. The tastier ones involved a vegetarian buffet and barbecued meat and fish on sticks, accompanied by a lovely Beerlao, which has been the nicest of all the beers I've had out here.

Dessert on the market consisted of tiny pancake-like coconut cakes. I don't know what they're called but they're cooked over a fire in a specially shaped pan which acts as a mould. Batter is poured into the pan and cooked to make tiny delicious hemispheres which are put together to make a little cake about the size and shape of a flattened golf ball. The texture is soft and slightly wibbly and apparently they're made with rice and coconut. We were too busy eating them to take any pictures.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

American Stinky

We bounced away from Kep on the bouncy bus, which conveniently stopped after about ten minutes to let us all out while the driver got nice and oily tinkering around in the engine. We sat on the grass in the sunshine while word spread among vendors back in the town that a bus had broken down, and a few minutes later our every street food desire was being fulfilled by carts selling meat on sticks, bread, water and unripe mangoes with weird little bags of salt (I bought one and wasn't sure whether that was how you eat them in Cambodia, or maybe as a naive foreigner I'd gone and chosen the wrong mango)

We watched the bus driver smile cheerfully as he chatted on the mobile, which gave no clue as to how screwed our bus was - it didn't seem like the kind of thing that was going to break his day. As it turned out, our bus was pretty much useless - it had been much nicer and shinier than the one we came in on, clearly the shiny buses do not work so well and are not to be trusted. A less shiny rescue bus came along shortly and we continued to Phnom Penh in suitable amounts of squalor.

This was just a quick stopover - we were thinking about getting the boat to Siem Reap but decided that it left too early (7am) and cost too much ($35) - the buses went all morning and cost a fraction of that. Phnom Penh seemed crazy, noisy and filthy after Kep. Probably because it is all those things. Unfortunately we were a few days too late to witness the wedding of two snakes in a nearby village.

We set off on the bus to Siem Reap the next day. The predicted 4-6 hour journey time was in fact seven hours, it was quite a rough journey. We stopped at a cafe for lunch, and Dgym and I shared a steamed dumpling which turned out to be pretty much the Cambodian equivalent of a Cornish Pasty, only breadier. We stopped again in the middle of nowhere about 20km short of Siem Reap to allow the bus radiator to cool down, the driver to have a smoke, and several dozen mosquitoes to join us for the final leg. By this time we'd run out of water and long since had enough of the journey and decided that five hours was about our limit for bus travel.

So we were infinitely thankful when we arrived at Siem Reap and were greeted by the grinning tuktuk driver from our hotel. We've never been so pleased to see a tuktuk driver, and sitting down and drinking water never felt so good!

We took the next day off to take it easy, then the following day we rented bikes from the hotel and rode up to the Angkor temple complex, a vast park full of crumbling stone temples, the ruins of the ancient Khmer empire. This includes the enormous Angkor Wat, the world's largest religious building. We had a lovely but very hot, thirsty and sweaty day riding around seeing some of the highlights. The scenery between the temples is beautiful too - mostly shady forest on the loop we did, but sometimes opening out a bit more and sprinkled with palm trees and cows. A particular highlight (and my favourite) was Ta Prohm - over time, trees and temple have become one, and it's sometimes hard to tell them apart.

Bike (11/365) There are plenty of places to stop for a little light refreshment during a day at the temples. Everywhere we stopped off we were offered water, fruit, hats, little bracelets, "Something to eat, lady?" (we are still arguing over which one of us was being called lady). When we finally decided to stop for lunch, we made the mistake of being separated for a second and were both pounced on by separate restaurant owners and managed to cause a bit of a fuss because they'd both seen us first and therefore each was indignantly staking her claim on us. We felt so objectified, but at least it meant we were hastily offered discounts in each place. They proceeded to squabble and moan like five year olds and left us just wanting to have a quiet sit down under a tree - but they'd seen us now and kept following us. We decided to go with the less annoying one, and as soon as we'd made our decision the fighting stopped.

However, the main highlight was trying to buy water after we emerged from Angkor Wat, hot and sweaty and ready to call it a day. We were approached by a young girl who had clearly found her target market and attempted to sell us a large water for $2. We pointed out that we could get it for about 50 cents in the cafes and shops. Not at Angkor Wat, she pointed out. Only pond water costs 50 cents at Angkor Wat. The price dropped quickly to $1 and then to 0.75. We didn't have far to go before we'd find a shop so we turned away and got on our bikes. She called us "American Stinky" and flounced off in a sulk.

We spent the next day recovering from visiting the temples - we lounged around town, ate food, drank fruit shakes, shopped a bit. There's some pretty cheap food to be found here - you can eat for a couple of dollars in the cafes by the old market. We've been staying a 20 minute walk from the town centre, close to some very cheap local restaurants, the point-at-your-food kind with jugs of free iced tea We've also discovered little street restaurants dedicated to desserts - beans, sticky rice, tapioca, coconut, taro, all served from metal bowls, plus some interesting pastries. Dinner + dessert for two has cost under $4 for the past couple of nights. Tasty and cheap.

Did I mention the cheese on toast? We found a western-run bar serving various fried breakfasts, Jacket potatoes and other stuff we haven't been seeing much of. I'd been having a difficult few days with food, not really feeling like eating local stuff. I walked in, up to the bar and asked for cheese on toast. "Well, you certainly know what you want", the Aussie owner remarked, and soon two delicious slices were placed before us. With a sprinkling of Lea & Perrins. that put me back on track and fulfilled my feeble Western body's cravings for wheat and dairy produce, a warm cheesy oasis in a desert of rice and noodles.

Tomorrow we're flying to Laos!

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Mangosteen3 Reasons why we love mangosteens:

  1. They're purple
  2. They look awesome
  3. They taste awesome
  4. They're hygenic (important in countries of dubious water quality - the edible bit is protected by thick rind)
  5. They're new and exciting. Neither of us had even heard of them until now
  6. They're good for you
  7. They're easy to get into - squeeze and the rind pops open.
  8. The inner bits look like cloves of garlic.
  9. They're well padded so don't get damaged too easily.
  10. They rhyme with langoustine. What else does that? If you have any recipes for mangosteen with langoustine, or any poems making use of this, we'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011


The bus to Kep was advertised as air conditioned, which was fair. It was also quite shabby, a bit grimy and the curtains were hung upside down. We were aware that the road wouldn't be fully paved but it was only a few short stretches and for most of it the bus belted along at a crazy 70mph that we wouldn't have thought it capable of. We bounced in our seats on every pothole, which was kind of fun.

Sometimes the road was dusty, the dust came into the air conditioning and we along with everybody else spent the next fifteen minutes with the nearest item of clothing clutched to our faces. We passed roadside shacks, pepsi bottle petrol stations, skinny cows with alarmingly visible rib cages, ponds with pretty water lily flowers, and horrendous amounts of litter.

After about four hours we reached Kep, passing the famous (or not) Giant Crab statue, and were dropped off in the town center, or as near as you're going to get in a small and scattered place like this. We were instantly assailed by tuk tuk drivers offering trips to Rabbit Island, trips to the pepper fields, trips to a cheap guest house they happen to know, pretty much everything except a nice non-bouncy sit down on the sea wall which was what we were after.

After a sit down and a sweaty walk around town we found ourselves a guest house for the next few days and began our stay in Kep. We've been having a great time here. It's very quiet for a seaside town - in the days of French rule it was Cambodia's most popular seaside town but after they left, the Khmer Rouge came along and tried to destroy the fancy coastal villas in an attempt to eradicate all trace of former days. However, they did a pretty poor job of it and today Kep is filled with the decaying shells of these buildings. Some are being restored as Kep slowly regains its tourism status, and those that are not often still have immaculately kept gardens.

We rented bikes for a day and rode them up onto Kep Mountain (which is only a little mountain, a couple of hundred metres high) to follow the 8km jungle trail. We didn't see any monkeys up there but lots of butterflies, all of which did a grand job of evading my camera, much to my annoyance. No tigers either. About half way round there was a sign directing us off the path to a cafe with refreshments. Dgym had been complaining about dehydration so we headed down the ladder and onto a steep path, assuming it was quite close. After a minute or two I spotted the cafe in the distance, a good km or two away at the bottom of the mountain! At that point we decided to turn back onto the path. Doesn't seem right to attempt to divert somebody down off a mountain for a quick drink - they'll probably need another one by the time they've got back up to the path.

Yesterday we caught a boat out to Rabbit Island which didn't have any rabbits but is shaped like one apparently. It did have some pigs, dogs and beach chickens though. The pier featured an artist's rendering of what the pier should look like. Bizarrely, this included business men in suits with briefcases waiting for smart looking hovercraft to ferry them across. It was clearly done by an artist who had never visited the location, or possibly even Cambodia, or been told anything about the location because I really can't imagine what you'd want a suit or a briefcase for on Rabbit Island, which is mostly full of palm trees, wooden shacks and people in bikinis.

We had a lovely day chilling out and reading on the beach and had some lovely coconut and pineapple juices with our lunch at one of the cafes.

The seafood is spectacular here - I've been eating a lot of crab (particularly good with local green peppercorns) and even Dgym couldn't resist the lure of a barbequed squid-lolly from the market. One particularly interesting market treat was a mysterious grilled banana leaf parcel. We speculated that it might be amok but weren't sure and bought one anyway - unwrapping revealed that it was a little sausage of rice, and biting revealed a tasty little Cambodian banana inside.

In general, the food in Cambodia hasn't been as good as Thailand and is usually a bit more expensive. It's harder to find a good fruit shake and there are no 7/11s selling weird purple bread and unidentifiable coconutty goop, instead there are pricier convenience stores selling mostly imported American stuff. However, there's plenty that makes up for that. People are very friendly here and always happy to say hello, including the kids who are adorable - tiny toddlers barely old enough to speak grinning and waving at you, and one little girl of about six walked up to me in the street, said hello, shook my hand and walked on again!

I should also mention the coffee. Mmm, the coffee. You don't see much Cambodian coffee outside of Cambodia which is a shame because I will miss it when we leave. It often has quite a distinctly chocolatey taste. If you ask for milk, you often get sweetened (condensed) milk which was surprising at first but it grew on me very quickly and I now opt for it over regular milk, not least because in combination with the chocolatey flavour, a cup of coffee becomes virtually indistinguishable from a dense, bitter cup of Italian hot chocolate.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Phnom Penh

We've been getting a bit behind with the posts lately - what can we say, we've been too busy lounging in the sunshine eating tasty food.

We've been in Cambodia for just over a week now and things are good. We arrived in the capital Phnom Penh last Monday evening and spent Tuesday recovering before moving on again. Well, Dgym spent the day recovering, I spent it trekking across town to visit both the genocide museum and the chocolate shop before we moved on again.

Phnom Penh itself didn't exactly captivate us but nor did it live up to the horrible description on Wikitravel. (I'm starting to realise that because Wikitravel is the compounding of the experiences of everybody who's visited that place and bothered to write about it, and since people generally talk more about negative experiences than positive or neutral ones, it sometimes turns into a "list of bad stuff that could happen to you here but really most probably won't").

Sure, it's probably a bit dirtier than Bangkok and the traffic, while a bit lighter, is also a bit more insane and there's a bit more tuk tuk pestering but it didn't come across as rough or horrible, nor did anybody try to throw bricks at us. The rich poor divide is quite evident in the many huge shiny SUVs on the roads and big modern shopping malls while one-legged beggars get their children to follow you for entire blocks pleading for money. The riverside area is a very pleasant space and a nice place to sit, and there are some beautiful buildings and monuments. We stayed in an Irish pub along the river front which was OK but we couldn't eat one of those Irish breakfasts every morning.

Tuol Sleng - cells The genocide museum was - well, I don't know how you describe a genocide museum really. It's a former school which was converted into a prison camp by the Khmer Rouge regime in the Seventies. The four three-storey buildings are pretty much as they were when they were found by the Vietnamese after the fall of the regime - rusty iron bed frames remain in some of the interrogation rooms, other rooms are filled with the photographs that were taken of each inmate, and many rooms are divided into tiny cells by brick and wooden partitions. Barbed wire mesh remains across the front of one of the buildings - this prevented desperate inmates from committing suicide. It's worth reading about the Khmer Rouge rule and the Tuol Sleng Prison - very disturbing stuff but a piece of relatively recent history that has clearly had a huge impact on the country.

The chocolate shop was considerably more pleasant, I met up with Dgym and we had a brownie and tried some of the pepper chocolate (pepper being one of those things Cambodia does well) and some chocolate coated coffee beans. Coffee is also one of those things Cambodia does well, and we're not complaining about the chocolate either.

We thought maybe we'd end up getting the early morning boat to Siem Reap the day after that but I found a little booklet with some info about the quiet seaside resort of Kep which sounded lovely so we hopped on a bus and made our way down to the coast.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

About those bugs

After spending Christmas in Phuket we left on Boxing Day morning, travelling to Phuket town on a local open-sided bus which we weren't sure would ever arrive but eventually did and was quite fun, if a little scary on the downhills. A short walk across Phuket later, we stopped outside the bus station for some very tasty noodles and iced tea before setting off on a long coach journey to Surat Thani, the nearest railway station.

The lady at the bus station said 4 hours for the journey, the internet said 4-6 and we're learning to add a good couple of hours to scheduled journey times around here but had over 8 hours before the train so weren't too worried when the bus crawled along at about 20mph for the first hour of the journey, so long as it didn't do that for the full 200km. We stopped by the side of the road for about half an hour while various mechanical and spannery things happened beneath the window and when we started up it seemed the bus had found some more gears and sped up considerably. We were kept "entertained" on the journey by a very flickery tv screen and the movies "The Experiment" (american remake of German "Das Experiment" which was of course much better) and "Step Up 3" (in Thai with no subtitles, for which we were thankful)

Market We reached Surat Thani (actually Phun Phin, a suburb) with three hours to kill and stumbled across the loveliest market we've seen yet. As Dgym has already mentioned, I ate bugs. I would like to point out that people eat wiggly seafood all over the world, French people eat frogs and snails, Tequila is made from worms and for goodness sake, some people even eat haggis. Eating bugs is not inherently any more gross than eating animals with slightly fewer legs, and is considered perfectly normal in many parts of the world.

The mealworms actually looked tasty and I definitely wanted them. Grasshoppers sounded fiddly but kind of prawn-like in composition so I was interested to try some of those. I thought the grubs looked a bit fat and squishy for my tastes but I saw a Thai girl order a big bagful of them and she looked so excited I felt they deserved my attention too.

Mealworm The verdict - mealworms were good, they were crispy and took on the spicy peppery flavouring very nicely. I finished them and would happily eat more. Grasshoppers were OK but too fiddly and not enough edible stuff to be worth the effort. I bit into a grub and spat it out straight away - as I had suspected, too squishy and full of yucky bug stuff. Definitely an acquired taste.

We also had some delicious freshly cooked Thai doughnuts (served with the traditional green Thai custard), grilled chicken and sushi from the market, all of which were yummy. I think I could happily stay in Phun Phin for a week and eat my way through the market.

Sunrise After that we took the sleeper train to Bangkok, we had first class tickets this time - the cabin was a bit cramped but it was infinitely better than the non-reclining seats. We could have flown but I was glad we travelled overland this time - it took some time but it was worth it for the market and for the gorgeous sunrise which Dgym missed - pink sky and light mist over farmland dotted with tall lollipop-like palm trees.

Bangkok seems more familiar than it should do for somewhere we've stayed in for 4 days and passed through a couple of times. There's an odd kind of charm about it that I can't put my finger on, in spite of the heat and the fumes and the traffic. It was nice to come back and kill a few hours in cafes before our flight out of Thailand into Cambodia.

Merry Christmas

Christmas dinner Our last day in Phuket was a good one. I have been enjoying the summer holiday aspect, and especially the sea which was lovely and warm. We had lunch at a very posh restaurant, complete with Christmas pudding (although we had a tasty chocolate pudding too), and then spent the afternoon lounging around the pool at the hotel.

Once you get past all the offers for tuk tuks this is a decent place to spend your summer holidays. Great for people who don't always co-ordinate their seasons very well :D